UM Archives & Special Collections: UM Admin Bldg, ca. 1910
University of Manitoba Crest
Gaby Divay's FPG & FrL Papers
UM Libraries Logo

Frederick Philip Grove's German Heritage:
The Evidence in the University of Manitoba's Archival Collections
Gaby Divay
University of Manitoba, Archives & Special Collections

© e-Edition, June 2005

How to cite this e-Article
University of Manitoba Libraries
Archives & Special Collections 
UMArchives: FPG & FrL Collections

The famous Canadian pioneer novelist Frederick Philip Grove appeared in Manitoba in December 1912. He taught in the German speaking districts of Haskett and Winkler for about two years, during which time he married his fellow teacher Catherine Wiens from Saskatchewan. The couple then taught in various small places in the Manitoban Interlake and Riding Mountain regions until they moved to Ontario in 1929. Grove started publishing essays, novels, and articles in quick succession in the early twenties, and he never stopped writing at a truly manic pace until his death in 1948.

While Grove's Canadian career and biography is well-documented, his early years were kept in deliberate darkness during his life-time. In his two autobiographical novels A Search for America (1927) and In Search for Myself (1946), Grove claimed to be of Anglo-Swedish origin. But even his alleged cosmopolitan upbringing could not explain convincingly the notable lack of his Swedish "mother-tongue" when he was fluent in German, French, and English, and claimed mastery of several other languages as well.

In October 1971, D.O. Spettigue made the spectacular discovery that Grove spent his first thirty years as Felix Paul Greve. He was a minor literary figure in the orbit of Stefan George around 1900, and later became an immensely prolific translator of mostly French and English literature. In 1909, Greve removed himself from the German scene with a staged suicide. The three missing years between Greve's disappearance and Grove's well documented existence are likely to have been spent somewhat along the lines described in Grove's autobiographical novels. Catherine Grove affirmed furthermore that he "taught high school in Cincinnati and owned a farm in Kentucky", and the evidence of Greve's companion Else confirms the Kentucky connection today.

The University of Manitoba owns Grove's archives which attest to his amazing productivity and vast culture. There is a large amount of unpublished short stories, fragmentary novels, articles, and poetry beyond various manuscript versions of published materials. They were donated by Grove's widow in the early sixties, but a substantial part of Grove's papers still remains in the hands of his son Leonard. He recently donated the remains of Grove's library from the Simcoe residence, and a closer investigation of the author's readings and annotations offers prospects of exciting future studies.

In 1985, the Spettigue papers documenting his Greve/Grove discovery were acquired. There are also the research results of Grove's early teaching career deposited in the Archives by Margaret Stobie in the early seventies. Her taped interviews with Grove's students in Haskett and Winkler confirm that his German origin was taken for granted by them, as it was by many others who knew him. Margaret Stobie's book on Grove was published in 1973 in the Twayne's World Authors series at about the same time as Spettigue's findings appeared as FPG: The European Years. She also unearthed Grove's lengthy article "Rousseau als Erzieher" in Der Nordwesten in late 1914, and the revealing, confessional letters to his colleague Warkentin. Both provide further confirmation that Grove's proficiency in German went far beyond an acquired language ability.

Else Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven's Autobiography (ca. 1923-1926) in the University of Maryland was exchanged this spring for the mirror-image novel Fanny Essler by Greve (1905). Else was the wife of the later famous Jugendstil architect August Endell, and she and Greve eloped to Palermo in January 1903 - the distraught husband was allowed to come along as far as Naples. She later joined Greve in Kentucky where he left her within a year, and she is quite transparently the model for Grove's "bad" heroines as for instance Clara Vogel in his first novel The Settlers of the Marsh (1927).

The three research collections mentioned in combination with the Freytag-Loringhoven account assure that the University of Manitoba provides the single most important contingent of source material related to Grove alias Greve anywhere in North America or Europe.

Reading Stobie's account of Grove's career and Spettigue's book dwelling on Greve's childhood and youth side by side, one wonders what the stern, hardworking Canadian writer and the decadent German author have in common. In 1971, no documentary proof existed that Greve had come to North America as Grove. Only Else's Autobiography confirms today that he did not die in 1909, and that he did indeed move to America "via Canada", as she says (p. 33). The numerous striking correspondences between the two FPGs were literally buried in the strictly chronological coverage of Spettigue's book, which was produced in great haste only two years after the discovery, and which therefore suffers from several serious mistakes in the rendering of German sources.

Within a very short time after his discovery, Spettigue was in possession of an impressive array of biographical and literary documents concerning Greve. One of the most revealing pieces of evidence is the autobiographical account Greve submitted to the editor of Brümmer's Lexikon der deutschen Dichter und Prosaisten in 1907. It reads like a blueprint to Grove's description of his early years in In Search of Myself. To convince Fritz Gruhne, his German collaborator of many years, who refused to recognize Greve in Grove's "autobiographical" description, Spettigue prepared a comparative table of matching facts concerning the two FPGs. An expanded version of it is shown below:

Frederick Philip Grove Felix Paul Greve
Sources: In Search of Myself (1946) Brümmer-letter (1907)
Initials: FPG FPG
Birthdate: 14. 2.1872 14. 2.1879
Birthplace: "Russian-German border town" Radomno, East Prussia
Early Years: Castle Thurow in Sweden Estate in Radomno
Parents: separated separated
Father: Charles Edward Grove Carl Eduard Greve
Mother: Bertha Rutherford Bertha Reichentrog
Sister(s): many Henny, 1877, Thurow, Schwerin
Schooling: "Hamburg gymnasium" Johanneum, Hamburg
Languages: English, French, German, et al. German, English, French, Italian
Studies: Classics, Archaeology, Science Classics, Archaeology, Science
Location: Paris, Bonn, Oxford, Rome, Munich Bonn, Munich
Literary Circles: Paris, Munich, 1890s Munich, Berlin, 1900s
Lifestyle: decadent "l'art pour l'art" decadent "l'art pour l'art"

In addition to these biographical correspondences, there are numerous literary links. One of these is still the optimal, and sole direct evidence that Grove was Greve: Grove's untitled manuscript poem "Die Dünen fliegen auf..." in the Grove archives is nearly identical with "Erster Sturm" which Greve published in Die Schaubühne in 1907. This capital document will be discussed in more detail below, and it can be complemented with the Fanny Essler novel and poems (1904/5) as well as with Else's autobiographical accounts of him (1923-1927).

There is another rather explicit reference to a "college story with a multiple sexual theme" entitled Felix Powell's Career. Grove was fond enough of it to exclude it from an announced burning of his manuscripts in 1940. It is believed to be no longer extant. Grove entrusted it to his wife who hated it, and who may have destroyed it. "Felix Powell" are, of course, revealing homophonic echoes of Greve's first names Felix Paul.

Biographical and literary self-references to his concealed past pervade Grove's works and correspondence in such accumulation that they may be interpreted as compulsive self-mirroring, or even an urge to be discovered - possibly with the unconscious motivation to invite punishment in order to find peace of mind.

Some of the more noteworthy biographical pointers of that sort and several more general literary hints are presented below. They have in common an artful element of transformation, condensation, projection, and other almost dream-like mechanisms described by psychologists of the subconscious like Freud, Adler, and Jung - all of whom were Greve's widely discussed contemporaries. Elements of Grove's compulsive self-representations are evident already in Greve, as will be later demonstrated in the light of his Fanny Essler poems of 1904/5.

The name Rutherford which Grove attributed to his mother points to Greve's friend Herman Kilian's grandfather, a famed Scottish jurist called Andrew Rutherfurd-Clarke. Grove proposed the name Andrew R. Rutherford as a pseudonym to McClelland & Stewart for his first book publication Over Prairie Trails in 1922, and it also features in a notebook of manuscript poems in the Grove archives, where Grove scribbled "Jane Atkinson by Andrew R. Rutherford".

Jane Atkinson is an unpublished novel Grove never completed. It contains an intriguing cameo which coincides with a minor episode in Greve's Fanny Essler (1905): Fanny lives in Berlin with her maiden aunt Adele Blaurock who runs a variety store on the major shopping avenue Friedrich-Strasse. One of the items in her store are tortoise-shell combs. Jane Atkinson's aunt Miss Marlowe also has "an array of tortoise-shell combs" which happen to be "unsalable remnants from a store on Yonge Street, Toronto".

Like Greve's heroine Fanny Essler, many of Grove's characters read Baudelaire and Flaubert, and enjoy listening to Beethoven and Wagner. In the unpublished short-story "Radio Broadcast", the German immigrant Karl Amthor is clearly a persona of Grove through his background in classics and archaeology, and the aesthete's fascination with the beauty of hoar frost and sand dunes, even though they are threatening his land and livelihood. His unrealistic attitude is a transparent symbol for the decadent "art over life" preference, which Greve professed and lived at the time of his intense preoccupation with Oscar Wilde until his downfall in 1903. Karl enjoys Wagner's Meistersinger on the radio, and dies listening to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

In a letter to Lorne Pierce of Ryerson Press in 1925, Grove requests twelve personal copies of his first Canadian novel Settlers of the Marsh which he wants to send to "personal or correspondence acquaintances". H.G. Wells and the Mercure de France (an implicit reference to Gide, who was connected to the famous literary magazine), stand out in the list of nine local and international names enumerated. Greve translated several works by these two authors whom he also knew personally.

No direct correspondence with Wells has been found to date. Greve secured the rights for his first translations from prison, and autographed copies in the Urbana Champaign Wells-Collection of the six Wells books he translated strongly suggest a personal acquaintance. Shortly after his release from prison, Greve went to England where he likely contacted Wells, and possibly Meredith. Grove's explicit wish to send a personal copy of his first Canadian novel to this author whom Greve introduced to the German public is therefore a clear attempt to either continue or to rekindle an old prestigious relationship.

The personal Gide-connection dates from June 2, 1904. The initial encounter was recorded by Gide, and published as "Conversation avec un allemand" fifteen years after the fact in La Nouvelle Revue Française (1919), and later in Incidences (1924). Pacey's collaborator Mahanti discovered about fifty of Greve's letters to Gide which are still in Catherine Gide's possession today. One of them, written in June 22, 1908, was published in Grove's correspondence in 1976, and contains a curious allusion to Greve's future disappearance. Also in 1976, two more letters of even greater importance appeared in the Bulletin des amis d'André Gide. They were appended to a critical edition of the Conversation from Gide's original notes of June 1904.

This version contains several important clarifications. For one, Greve's identity is not hidden behind the initials B. R. as in the published texts. The same applies to the common friend "von M." who established the contact, and who is here openly identified as Karl Vollmöller. A third one puts the lie to facile speculations that Grove came to offer Gide a homosexual relationship. Gide asks: "Etes-vous pédéraste?", and Greve's immediate response is: "Absolument pas!" The first of Greve's letters was introduced by Gide himself at the end of the Conversation with these words: "Quelques jours après mon retour ici, je reçois de lui cette lettre". It is dated June 7, 1904, and was sent from Cologne. Greve announces that he will be in London for two weeks. As mentioned before, it is likely that he met with H. G. Wells and Meredith on this occasion.

Grove's references to Gide are plentiful, and most conspicuous in his In Search of Myself. The reading of Gide's biography led him to indulge in personal reminiscences, and encouraged him to publish his own. In accordance with Grove's familiar habit, Gide is rarely mentioned explicitly. Greve's contacts with him from 1904 onwards are presented, in further intentional "Verfremdung", as if they had occurred ten to fifteen years earlier. Thus, Gide and other famous personalities like Stefan George, whom Greve tried to impress in 1902, did in fact participate in Mallarmé's famous "mardi-soirs" at a time when Greve was still in his early teens. Grove's reference to the oasis Biskra, where Gide became aware of his homosexual leanings as described in L'immoraliste (1901), evoke Greve's preoccupation with Oscar Wilde, Gide's real-life, decisive encounter with this author, and Greve's translation of Gide's novel as Der Immoralist in 1905.

Greve and Thomas Mann both were active in literary circles in Munich in 1901 and 1902. No personal links between them have been discovered so far, and may simply not have existed. Even though Mann is strangely absent from Grove's correspondence, Grove sent him a "de luxe" copy of Two Generations, and also A Search for America in 1939. The accompanying letters seem to be lost, but they were obviously written in German, since Mann's replies are also. Mann had recently arrived in Princeton at the time, and he was suffering from culture shock and problems like his difficulty with the English language. He expresses empathy with the German immigrant experience, and believes that Grove's novel reflects his own Nietzschean conflicts between life and art, reason and nature. Any judgement regarding A Search for America is unfortunately lacking, since Mann was still looking forward to reading it.

Greve's last article in 1909 was a descriptive travel essay entitled "Reise in Schweden" in Neue Revue und Morgen. It featured a Roman numeral I, suggesting that more was to follow. Grove's first publications were collections of very similar nature essays, namely Over Prairie Trails and The Turn of the Year in 1922 and 1923, framing quite nicely in scope and style Greve's last and Grove's first literary expressions.

In April 1926, Grove sent a hasty disclaimer to The Canadian Bookman concerning his involvement in continental Swift editions which he had alleged in verbal communications to Kirkconnell: "My own work was restricted to a re-location of early editions and the South Kensington Ford MSS. As a result of these labours I was instrumental (though not directly engaged) in bringing about the publication of two, perhaps three continental editions of Gulliver's Travels, my aim being to rescue the work from dying as a literary masterpiece to become a 'children's classic'." Greve's last translation venture was a scholarly edition of Swift's Prosa Werke in four volumes. The first volume came out in the year of Greve's disappearance as Gullivers Reisen. The remainder was, so to speak, posthumous. Kippenberg's elegant suggestion to the "grieving widow" Else that not only tremendous debts to the Insel-Verlag and others, but also the threat of legal consequences for offering a translation to two publishers and draw payment from both could be a compelling reason for Greve's hasty disappearance, probably refers to Greve's Swift translations.

Greve keenly absorbed modern and classical, as well as French and English literary influences. His awareness and knowledge of German cultural trends of his times was equally well developed. It is therefore not surprising to find, along with a vast array of world literature, an abundance of common German literary models reflected in Grove's work. They can be seen as a somewhat more elusive kind of self-reference to his former existence as Greve on the same grounds as the barely veiled biographical pointers described above. But the clever falsifications Grove applied to both kinds tend to be more complicated, multi-layered, and difficult to decode in these cases. Allusions to Goethe or Nietzsche are so common-place for anyone of his generation that they in themselves would be insufficient for pinning Grove down to his German background, let alone to Greve. However, the combination of general and more obscure sources mentioned by Grove, and an awareness of his preoccupations as Greve exposes deliberately vague, yet invited connections.

Goethe features prominently in Grove's works. The most impressive document is the fragment of the epical poem "Konrad the Builder" in Grove's notebook of manuscript poetry. The promethean Konrad, who is determined to build a masterpiece in form of a Gothic Cathedral, is another transparent self-depiction of Grove himself. The medieval setting, a pact with the devil to achieve his ambitions, the presence of a blond and blue-eyed Margaret who is sacrificed to his designs are all obvious parallels to Goethe's Faust, pt.I. Grove also states explicitly that he used Goethe's autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit as a model for his own autobiographical novel In Search of Myself.

Nietzsche, whose influence cannot be overestimated for anyone of Greve's generation, is most obviously emulated in the fragment of aphorisms "The Life of Saint Nishivara", in which Grove casts himself along the lines of Zarathustra. Nietzsche's way "mit dem Hammer zu philosophieren", his prophetic stance as "Der Seher" (adopted by Stefan George and others), and his biting "Zeitkritik" are furthermore imitated in Grove's essays which deal with topics like history, science, progress, life, etc. The aphorisms, essays, and a significant portion of Grove's unpublished poetry reflect an intimate knowledge of Also sprach Zarathustra, and the Unzeitgemäßen Betrachtungen in particular. They link Grove to Nietzsche's pervasive general influence as evidenced in the writings of major contemporary Neo-Kantian philosophers such as Vaihinger's Die Philosophie des Als-Ob, or the decadence apostle Spengler's Der Untergang des Abendlandes. Greve's initial publication was a review of Nietzsche's works, volumes 11 & 12, in 1901, in which he deplored that the aphorisms related to Zarathustra had not been separated from others in v. 12, and thus obscured insights into the genesis of this masterpiece. One of the four "masters" honoured in Greve's poetry collection Wanderungen of 1902 is, not surprisingly, also Nietzsche. The other three are Stefan George, the painter Böcklin, and Beethoven.

Grove's very first Canadian publication is the article "Rousseau als Erzieher" which appeared in four lengthy instalments in the German newspaper Der Nordwesten in Winnipeg between November and December 1914. Beyond its special importance as Grove's earliest public manifestation in Canada, it is an impressive demonstration of Grove's proficiency in German which cannot be justified with an acquired fluency no matter how persuasively argued. Indirectly, both the title and the topic of this article make a triple-layered, hidden reference to Goethe, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche whose third Unzeitgemäße Betrachtung "Schopenhauer als Erzieher" already echoed Schopenhauer's "Goethe als Erzieher". Around 1900, numerous publications used the title "[so-and-so] als Erzieher" in Das literarische Echo and other periodicals, and Grove's opening remarks show that it was in fashion around 1914 with Canadian German teachers as well.

Hebbel's Gyges und sein Ring was the inaugural lecture presented to the English Club in Simcoe, Ontario on December 12, 1932. Grove had suggested it to Mrs. Jackson, the secretary/treasurer of the Club. His notes assisting her in the preparation and her address itself are in his archives, as are her reminiscences of the event on the tape recordings of the Simcoe Grove Colloquium in 1977. A buried self-reference here once again leads to Gide who wrote a play on the same topic entitled Le roi Candaule in 1901. It was not translated by Greve, but by Franz Blei (Insel,1905) who rivalled with Greve for Gide's translations on several other occasions. It is hardly a coincidence that Gide read Hebbel's drama immediately after his initial encounter with Greve in June 1904, and reflected on it in his journal entries at precisely that time.

Hofmannswaldau is a relatively obscure German poet of the Barock period who was revived in two partial editions in 1907. The diligent editors were again Blei and Greve. While Blei dwelled on more licentious aspects, Greve intended to restore forgotten German heritage. In the poem "The Palinode" Grove proudly parades his knowledge of classical poetry with a reference to the Greek poet Stesichorus who is credited with the creation of this genre. In the typescript Poems: In Memoriam Phyllis May Grove, his name features above the counter-ode, in the Canadian Forum printing it is omitted. However, only the published version reveals the typical structure of a palinode by placing ode and counter-ode side by side, thus creating a special effect which is lost in the linear arrangement of the unpublished typescript. Palinodes were particularly popular during the Barock, and they often revolved around the antinomy of praise or contempt of the world which is precisely the topic of Grove's poem. At first glance, the subtitle of Grove's poetry collection seems to emulate Tennyson's cycle In Memoriam A.H.H. (1850) which was composed in memory of a friend as much as Grove's was dedicated to his daughter. But a more significant, if oblique link with Hofmannswaldau's Hundert in kurtz-langmäßigen vierzeiligen Reimen bestehende Grabschriften (1663) is provided through a cycle-within-a-cycle called The Dirge: in these "funeral songs" Grove addresses his grievous loss most directly, and not without the tempered, abstract distancing which is also characteristic of Greve.

As mentioned before, the optimal literary proof for Greve/Grove's identity is Greve's poem "Erster Sturm" (1907), which also exists in an untitled version in Grove's manuscripts. Both consist of five quatrains, and feature an allegorical Fall whose approach is announced by a hurricane-like messenger giving the threatening advice to submit to his master's irrevocable passing. Fall, symbolized by the colours gold, brown, and red, represents time, a natural force whose ruthless course nobody can escape.

Grove's "Die Dünen fliegen auf..." differs from Greve's Erster Sturm in the following details: stanzas three and four are reversed; "Fahnen" were originally "Banner"; "gelb" for the colour of a horse is more aptly rendered as "falb", "grün" has become "wirr", and "heulen schwer" replaces "tönen wild". Just as archaic terms and abstract colour adjectives are replaced with less precious and more concrete options, so are several of the stilted, pre-placed adjective structures relinquished in favour of more natural German syntax. Overall, the discrepancies are minor, considering that Grove wrote his poem down some twenty or thirty years after its initial publication. They reveal, however, a systematic intention to neutralize precious elements in view of a simpler artistic ideal.

This trend is even more manifest in Grove's translation of this poem as "The Dying Year", and it becomes strikingly obvious in "Arctic Woods", which is Grove's translation of "Dies ist der Wald...". The German original describes a somber, spooky forest with images of decay and death. The water in the ditches resembles ghostlike, iridescent eyes, and the protagonist is torn between fear and a morbid kind of attraction. The mid-day heat and light are screened from this supernatural forest by a mysterious grey wing, which lends it the appearance of a living grave. A white horse, immobilized in flight, is seen beyond the tree-tops. In typical neo-romantic terms, the theme is death, the white horse being related to the apocalyptic riders. Once again, the English translation remains very close to the original, but a few slight changes adapt both tone and setting to the English title: the ghostlike, iridescent eyes are now simply large eyes. The association of decaying flesh and pallid white birch trunks is replaced with the suggestion of vulnerable, bare skin. The white horse is now significantly "snow-white", and it is "frozen" in flight. The simple shift from a general you to a personal I in confrontation with his environment completes the powerful transformation from a neo-romantic, supernatural setting to the concrete threat of a Canadian winter landscape.

Neo-romantic and symbolist elements are a common denominator in Greve's poetry. They are equally present in all six of Grove's German poems. "Die Dünen fliegen auf..." ("Erster Sturm"), " Dies ist der Wald...", and "Kopfschmerz" emphasize these elements. The tension between ambitious dreams and everyday life are the theme of the other three which have confessional character ("Sag, hebt sich dein Herz...", "Das Fieber...", and "Apokalypse")." Das Fieber..." advocates the ruthless rights of the "special" individual, and contains some unsavory, martial glorifications. "Die rote Lust der Kriege" rhymes there with "Mutter aller Siege" - a Nietzschean and Darwinistic imagery unfortunately common in Greve's time. Similar metaphors being absent in the remainder of Grove's poetry, it may be assumed that this poem was created before the horrors of two World Wars.

Apart from several legends and Konrad, supernatural elements are virtually non-existent in Grove's English poetry which on the whole is "Gedankenlyrik". Man's ontological position is the focus, as exemplified by the opening and closing lines of Questions reasked: "What are we? Whence? And whither are we bound?" The impetuous ego of the gifted individual prevails in Greve's and Grove's German poetry, while a disillusioned world-view, depicting man as a wave in the ocean, or a worm on earth, dominates Grove's. The discrepancy between the two outlooks can be explained first by a natural maturing process, and by the different realities of a young aesthete living in Germany around 1900, and those of a writer embittered by year-long struggles for literary acceptance in a quite different natural and cultural setting. Grove's German poems provide a direct link with Greve's, and his translations document the transition from one to the other most convincingly.

While both content and tone differ considerably in Greve's and Grove's poetry, the form remains constant throughout, and reveals the clear imprint of the "George-Mache" : apart from the occasional sonnet, quatrains are the reigning form. The verse tends to employ the iambic metre, and to enclose syntactically relevant units. The rhyme usually coincides with full words like verbs and nouns, enjambments and rhymed particles as in Hofmannsthal and Rilke are avoided. Another characteristic provides a significant connection between the two poetic expressions: Adorner's "pathetic Distant", or a distance from pathos, was coined in relation to the George-circle. It refers to an intellectual, abstract attitude which aims at typical representation, and at emotional moderation through formal control. Greve already reflects it, but it is especially present in Grove's poetry where a certain sobriety tempers even the most painful emotions, notably the grief over the sudden death of his twelve year old daughter in The Dirge. It is at an exact antipode to expressionist aesthetics, such as practiced by Else in the late teens and early twenties.

When Grove left her in Kentucky around 1912 to become a virtuous, if somewhat boring Canadian author, she made her way to New York to adopt a flamboyant life as the scandalous Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven in Greenwich Village. Her artistic endeavours are manifold, and always received widespread critical attention. Between 1919 and 1926, the Little Review published twenty-five of her expressionist or dadaist poems, several of which were in German. Her importance here, however, lies in her ties with Greve in Germany, and later in Kentucky. She seems to be unaware of Greve's whereabouts after their separation. At least, there is no evidence in her extant papers that she ever tried to contact him, whereas she attempted establish relations with old lovers or friends in Germany.

Her autobiography, entirely mute on questions of time and place, confirms that Greve appropriated her life experience for his two novels, and he possibly did more than that, since he discouraged her in her tentative literary self-expressions. The presence of a somewhat shortened version of the last Fanny Essler poem in her papers increases the suspicion that Greve claimed to be author when he, as she explains with regard to his novels, mainly assumed polishing and marketing functions: "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. He esteemed Flaubert highly as he tried to be Flaubert...He took it all outwardly as mere industry, except for the material in it. They must be fearful books as far as art is concerned."

Greve wrote to Gide that he was using the name of his fictional heroine as a pseudonym for some poetry publications: "And now about me. I must work in rather strange ways. I am not one person anymore, I am three: 1. Felix Paul Greve. 2. Madame Else Greve. 3. Madame 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..." This amazing revelation also confirms that he used the name Else Greve as alleged translator for some of Flaubert's correspondence. As he specifies, Italian is the only foreign language she knows at that time, in other words: he is doing all the work. He furthermore intends to publish her autobiography anonymously. This plan did not materialize: Fanny Essler clearly features as the title of Else's biography and roman-à-clef of the Stefan George circle, Greve is presented as the author, and the genre is fiction.

The seven Fanny Essler poems appeared before the novel, and the name of Greve's heroine features as the author. They are carefully structured as a triptych, like a medieval altar-piece: first, the fictitious author Fanny/Else bewails in two untitled poems the absence of her lover (Greve) while alone in the Southern climes of "Tunis" during the fall of 1903. The absent lover is the focus of her adoration in the centre piece: Drei Sonette: ein Porträt gives a timeless, static description of his hands, eyes, and mouth. The impression of coldness and rigid control matches the depiction of Reelen or Greve in the Fanny Essler novel, and Else Freytag-Loringhoven's account of him in her Autobiography. The final two untitled poems evoke a Northern setting in much the same way as the initial ones referred to Southern surroundings: the only flaw in an otherwise perfect winter day is that her lover is not there. The perfect symmetry of these seven poems is only disturbed by the reversal of biographical and chronological givens: the final, Northern landscape ("Husum", and "der Friesen flaches Land" are specific references) corresponds in fact to the Frisian island Föhr where Else Endell longed for Greve before they eloped in January 1903. The initial Southern flank describes her loneliness in Palermo (not Tunis) after he was unexpectedly jailed in Bonn in May 1903.

The narcissistic element pointed out earlier in relation to Grove is particularly strong in this poetic mini-cycle in which Greve is mirroring himself through Else's eyes. This holds true even if Greve's role was limited to forming and publishing functions as Else von Freytag-Lorinhoven's poem "Du" strongly suggests.

Many of Else's poems in the University of Maryland archives feature explicit references to Felix Paul Greve whether in Germany, Italy, or Kentucky. "Wolkzug" is inspired by her situation in 1903/1904, and provides the most detailed, biographical note: "Das war in Palermo - als Felix Paul Greve in Deutschland im Gefängnis war, meint- 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." "Haideritt" describes an excursion of two lovers on horseback, an event which took place most likely on Föhr in late 1902. Such an outing is also described in Greve's novel Fanny Essler, and a similar passage occurs in Flaubert's Madame Bovary - as shown earlier, Flaubert was Greve's avowed model for his novels.

The version "Herbst" of her poem "Schalk" (meaning "buffoon") specifies as location "Sparta, Kentucky, am Eagle Creek". This poem is therefore very likely a later reminiscence of the couple's final phase between 1910-12. At the bottom of "Schalk" is stated: "Der Herbst ist - als Bild - ein Porträt Felix Paul Greves". This note identifies the poem as a bitter double parody of Greve's poetry: in close analogy to the static and timeless centre piece of the Fanny Essler triptych "Drei Sonnette: ein Porträt" (emphasis mine; note the significance of the purely descriptive quality of "portrait" in both cases!), it addresses in somewhat different order the eyes (steely-blue), mouth (poppy leaf-shrill), and hands (chalk-white and murderous) of her lover Greve. These physical and symbolic characteristics are supplemented with further descriptions of his thighs (alabaster-dead), face (chiselled, Cain-like), hair (golden-metallic), and spear-rigid heart. The old and new attributes are then cleverly linked to the allegorical Fall in Greve's poem "Erster Sturm", alluding to brutality, destruction, and death.

With this unflattering depiction of Greve, Else is squaring the account of her decade-long association with him, and his abandonment of her. The "Schalk" version still adheres largely to the conventional form of Greve's two original poems. Other variants of it illustrate her typical method which aims at timely adaptation rather than spontaneous creation: a German poem of traditional form and origin undergoes a systematic, progressive reduction (basically, by eliminating all syntactical or adverbial links), until they result in amazingly expressive word columns of nouns and adjectives. These are then translated, and sometimes published. Her keen awareness of German expressionist poetry is manifest in this particular case and elsewhere.

In Else's judgement, Greve was a talented craftsman with a gift for mimetic imitation, but devoid of creative inspiration. The same can be said about Grove. He is at his best in autobiographical expressions, or when he applies Flaubert's aesthetics to his nature essays, or Swift's satirical mode to Consider her ways. His eloquence and his immense knowledge are consistently impressive wherever he reacts to literary or cultural phenomena. But when he relies on himself to create fiction, a curious lack of imagination pervades his works. His novels are uninspired romans-à-thèse, his characters are two-dimensional, flesh- and bloodless abstractions. He remains as traditional and conservative in his creative attempts as he is in his Canadian existence, whereas Else anticipates and incorporates the most innovating trends of her time in artistic expressions as well as in a highly unconventional life.

In conclusion, the Canadian author Frederick Philip Grove and his glamorous, but equally shady life as Felix Paul Greve have acquired an additional dimension with the light thrown on them by the fascinating Freytag-Loringhoven evidence. The rich materials united in the University of Manitoba Archives provide a singularly important opportunity for present and future scholars from North America or abroad to pursue original research concerning all three facets.

Gaby Divay, University of Manitoba

Further documentation availabe on request from the author

Originally published as:
"Frederick Philip Grove's German Heritage: the Evidence in the University of Manitoba's Archival Collections,"
in: German-Canadian Studies in the Nineties: Results & Projects,
Toronto: German-Canadian Historical Association, 1993, 37-58.

How to cite this e-Version:
Divay, Gaby. "Frederick Philip Grove's German Heritage: the Evidence in the University of Manitoba's Archival Collections." rev. e-Edition, ©November 2005
(Accessed ddmmmyyyy [ex: 18nov2005]. [browser preview: 19 p.)