FPG's Autobiographical Sketch
(March 6, 1907)




Felix Paul Greve's Autobiographical Sketch of March 1907
for
Brümmer's Literary Dictionary*:
a Blueprint for Frederick Philip Grove's Invented Canadian Identity
[1]

*[see Bison Entry & the following illustrations: title page + 1913 fpg's entry, 1913, v.2]



e-Edition, translation, & annotations by Gaby Divay


© January 2001, e-Edition 2005


UManitoba FPG Endowment
Archives FPG & FrL Collections
Univ. of Manitoba Archives

How to cite this document

Greve composed the astounding document presented as German & English parallel texts below in March 1907. It was found by University of Queen's Professor D. O. Spettigue soon after he made the spectacular discovery in October 1971 that the Canadian author Frederick Philip Grove had been André Gide's translator, Felix Paul Greve. Spettigue analyzed this autobiographical sketch in his seminal book FPG: The European Years (Ottawa: Oberon, 1973), and rightly called it a blueprint to Grove's two autobiographical books, A Search for America (1927, e-Ed. 2000) and In Search of Myself (1946, e-Ed. 2007).

Desmond Pacey included this letter and Greve's submission for Brümmer's Lexicon in his authoritative edition of The Letters of Frederick Philip Grove (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976, 538-541). His note following the English translation on page 541 reads: "On page 439 of the Lexicon (Vol. 2) the entry on Greve summarizes the substance of this letter. The outline of this autobiography substantially agrees with what Frederick Philip Grove was later to say about his early life, although Grove claimed Swedish nationality and said that he was born sometime between 1871 and 1873."

To: Franz Brümmer, Nauen
From: Felix Paul Greve, Berlin W[est], Nachodstraße 24 [type-script]
Date: March 6, 1907

Source: Typescript copy in Spettigue Collection [Mss 56], UM Libraries, Archives & Special Collections.
Note: also published, with English translation, in:
The Letters of Frederick Philip Grove,Editor, Desmond Pacey, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1976, 538-541
Original: Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, Berlin
Electronic version & translation: prepared by Gaby Divay, January 2001, rev.2005.

Sehr geehrter Herr,

Wollen Sie bitte entschuldigen, wenn ich Ihre seinerzeit gesandte Aufforderung, Ihnen Daten für Ihr Lexikon anzugeben, so lange unbeantwortet ließ. Ich war mit Arbeiten überhäuft. Beifolgend sende ich Ihnen einige biographische Notizen.

Hochachtungsvoll
Ihr sehr ergebener
Felix P.Greve
Dear Sir,[1a]

Please, forgive me, for letting your invitation to provide you with data for your dictionary go unanswered for so long. I was over-burdened with work. Please, find enclosed some biographical notes.


Sincerely yours,
Felix P. Greve
[Submission]:

Ich wurde geboren am 14. II. 1879 zu Radomno, einem deutsch-russischen Grenzort, als Sohn mecklen-burgischer Eltern, die dort vorübergehend ein Gut besassen.
Meine frühere Jugend verlebte ich dann auf einem pommerschen Gutshof, die Jahre meines geistigen Erwachens in Hamburg. Dort absolvirte [sic!] ich die lateinische Realschule St. Pauli, da ich zunächst nach eigener Neigung und nach dem Wunsch meiner Eltern für den Kaufmannsberuf bestimmt war. Eigentlich erst, als ich schon in die Lehre treten sollte, kam mir der Gedanke an die Möglichkeit des Studirens [sic!]: und zwar, wenn ich aufrichtig sein soll, aus einer Art Größenwahn[2] heraus.
Ich war nämlich fest davon überzeugt, daß ich irgendwie einmal in der Welt einen Mittelpunkt abgeben müßte: ich hatte die Absicht, allerlei aus den Angeln zu heben: Mittel und Wege waren mir gleichgültig.
Es folgten ein paar Jahre fieberhafter Vorbereitung auf das Abiturienten Examen. In den alten Sprachen bin ich fast vollständig Autodidakt.
Da mir trotz der ungünstigen Umstände dieser Versuch glänzend gelang -- ich machte mein Abiturientenexamen am Johanneum mit Auszeichnung -- so war ich in meinen weiten, aber noch sehr ungestimmten Plänen bestärkt. Wenn ich wiederum aufrichtig sein soll,[3] so richteten sich meine Pläne, wenn sie überhaupt Gestalt annahmen, eher aufs Technisc als aufs Schönwissenschaftliche.
Ich stellte mir vor, ich werde eines Tages Luftschiffe bauen oder ein leichtes Automobil erfinden, das mit zwei Pferdekräften so viel zu leisten imstande wäre wie heute eins mit fünfzig Pferdekräften. Von solchen Gedanken bin ich noch heute nicht frei.
Trotzdem studierte ich Archäologie und alte Sprachen. Das Studium führte mich, bald eifrig, bald lässig betrieben, nach Bonn, Paris, London, Rom, Neapel, Griechenland und schließlich nach München. In München begann ich, veranlaßt durch einen blossen Zufall, zu übersetzen, und -- zunächst in parodistischer Absicht -- zu dichten.
Aus Lässigkeit und Verachtung der landesüblichen Karrieren gab ich mein Studium auf, überzeugt, daß ich auf jedem Wege durchs Leben und an meine Ziele gelangen werde. Dieser Überzeugung bin ich noch heute.
Mit dreiundzwanzig Jahren heiratete ich.[4]
Etwa gleichzeitig[5] veröffentlichte ich zwei Bändchen Verse, die schlecht sind, sobald man ihre parodistische Absicht[6] außer acht läßt.
Seither lebte ich abwechselnd in Süditalien, der Schweiz, Nordfrankreich und jetzt in Berlin.[7]
Während der vier Jahre meiner Ehe schrieb ich zwei Romane und eine Komödie.[8]
Ich habe die Absicht, in den nächsten Jahren ein paar Werke zu schreiben, die ich für wichtiger halte, als alles, was ich bisher geschrieben habe, obgleich auch in ihnen allerlei Beachtenswertes stecken dürfte. [9]

Verzeichnis meiner Schriften:
Wanderungen (Gedichte) -- 1902
Helena und Damon, Ein Spiel in Versen -- ebenda 1902
Oscar Wilde, eine Studie --Berlin, 1903
Randarabesken zu Oscar Wilde -- Minden, 1903
Fanny Essler, Ein Berliner Roman -- Stuttgart, 1905
Maurermeister Ihles Haus, Roman -- Berlin, 1907
Der heimliche Adel, Komödie --
(erscheint vorläufig nicht im Buchhandel, da ich zuvor eine Aufführung abwarte)

[Submission]:

I was born as the son of Mecklenburg parents on February 14, 1879, in Radomno, a German Russian border town where my parents temporarily owned an estate.
The most tender years of my youth were spent on a domain in Pomerania, while those marking the awakening of my personality were lived in Hamburg. There I was educated at the Realschule of St. Pauli, since I was destined by my own inclination and by my parents' wishes to become apprenticed to a commercial career. When I was about to begin my apprenticeship, I had the idea to pursue studies for a higher education. To be honest, it was in a fit akin to megalomania.[2]
For I was convinced that I was somehow destined to play a central role in the world: I had all the good intentions to change the course of history, regardless of the means.
A few years of feverish preparations for the high school examinations followed. In the classical languages, I am almost entirely self-taught.
Since despite the rather unfavorable conditions I succeeded in my efforts beyond all expectations -- I passed my examinations at the Johanneum with rare distinction -- I felt confirmed in my high-flying, yet rather nebulous plans. To be quite honest again,[3] my plans, as far as they took on some contours, were aiming at technical inventions rather than Belletristik endeavours.
I imagined that I would one day invent a flying machine or a light automobile which would be in a position to produce with two horse-powers as much speed as fifty horse-powers can yield today. To this very day I am not free from such dreams.

However, I enrolled in a programme of archaeology and classical languages instead. My studies, conducted diligently at times, and more leisurely at others, led me to Bonn, Paris, London, Rom, Neapel, Greece, and eventually to Munich. In Munich, I began translating by pure coincidence, and also to engage -- at first, with satirical intentions -- in creative writing.
Out of indifference and contempt for the usual career options I abandoned my studies, for I was convinced that I would achieve success and reach my goals no matter which course I chose. This conviction I still harbour today.
When I was twenty-three years old, I was married.[4]
At the same time,[5] I had two volumes of verse published. They are admittedly mediocre, if the intended spirit of parody is not considered.[6]
Since then, I lived in southern Italy, Switzerland, and northern France, and am presently in Berlin.[7]
In the four years of my married life I wrote two novels and a comedy.[8]

In the next few years, I intend to write a few works which I consider of for more important than everything written so far, although thoughts remarkable enough may be discovered there as well.[9]

A List of my publications:
Wanderungen (Poems) -- 1902
Helena und Damon, A Lyrical Play -- also 1902
Oscar Wilde, A Study -- Berlin, 1903
Randarabesken zu Oscar Wilde -- Minden, 1903
Fanny Essler, A Novel of Berlin Roman -- Stuttgart, 1905
Maurermeister Ihles Haus, A Novel -- Berlin, 1907
Der heimliche Adel, A Comedy --
(not yet available in print, since I am awaiting a stage production first)



It took some six years before the next edition of Brümmer's Lexikon was published in 1913. Greve had by then assumed his Canadian identity as a teacher named "Fred Grove" in Manitoba's Mennonite communities Winkler and Morden.
Though drastically reduced, Greve's entry on p. 439 of volume 2 still leaves plenty of links tying it to Grove's official biography.

Note that Greve declares to have been married in 1902: it was in December of that year that he and Else von Freytag-Loringhoven, then the wife of his friend August Endell, became lovers. The pair "eloped" with Endell in tow in late January 1903, & spent several months each in Palermo, Italy, Wollerau, Switzerland, & Paris-Plage, France, before moving back to Berlin in early 1906. There they were finally united in matrimony in August 1907.
Both became bigamists in North America when they respectively married in late 1913 in New York & in August 1914 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

Greve disappeared from Germany in July 1909 by means of a faked suicide. Else followed him to Pittsburgh a year later, where she was arrested for wearing men's clothes & smoking in public on Fifth Avenue [see NY Times note, Sept. 1910).

The disgraceful year Greve had spent in Bonn prison for fraud in 1903/4 was obviously not mentioned in neither the 1907 submission nor the 1913 published entry. Any reference to it is also lacking in Grove's autobiographies,

Entry [ill.] in the 6th edition of Brümmer's Authors' Lexicon, 1913, v.2, p.439:
Lexikon der deutschen Dichter und Prosaisten, vom Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zur Gegenwart. 6., völlig, neu bearbeitete und stark vermehrte Auflage. Leipzig: Reclam, 1913. 8v. in 4.
v.2, Dennert bis Grütter, 439:
Greve, Felix Paul, geb[oren] am 14. Februar 1879 zu Radomno, einem deutsch-russischen Grenzorte, als der Sohn mecklenburgischer Eltern, die dort vorübergehend ein Gut besaßen, verlebte seine Kindheit auf einem pommerschen Gutshof und die Jahre seines geistigen Erwachens in Hamburg, wo er die lateinische Realschule St. Pauli absolvierte, da er sich dem Kaufmannsberuf widmen sollte.
Indes kurz vor dem Eintritt in die Lehre kam ihm der Gedanke an die Möglichkeit des Studierens. Nach einigenJahren fieberhafter Vorbereitung bestand er das Abiturientenexamen am Gymnasium Johanneum in Hamburg, und obwohl seine Zukunftspläne mehr auf das Technische gerichtet waren, wandte er sich doch dem Studium der alten Sprachen u[nd] der Archäologie zu.
Es führte ihn nach Bonn, Paris, London, Rom, Neapel, Griechenland und schließlich nach München, wo er, durch einen bloßen Zufall veranlaßt, seine Tätigkeit als Übersetzer englischer u[nd] französischer Werke begann.
Aus Lässigkeit u[nd] Verachtung der landesüblichen Karrieren gab er nun sein Studium auf, um hinfort als freier Schriftsteller zu wirken.
Nach seiner Verheiratung (1902) lebte er abwechselnd in Süditalien, der Schweiz, Nordfrankreich und jetzt (1906) in Berlin.

S: Wanderungen (Ge.), 1902. -- Helena und Damon (Ein Spiel in V.), 1902. -- Oscar Wilde (Literar. Studie), 1903. -- Randarabesken zu Oscar Wilde, 1903. -- Fanny Essler (Berliner R.), 1905. -- Maurermeister Ihles Haus (R.), 1907. -- Tausend und ein Tag (Orient. Erz., übertragen); IV, 1909ff.




[1]The sources in the Spettigue Collection and the Rare Book Room were used as the textual basis of this document.

[1a] Translation by Gaby Divay, © January 2001; occasional inspiration, as provided by the English version published in D. Pacey's Letters of Frederick Philip Grove, 1976, 540-541, is hereby gratefully acknowledged.

[2]Here we have, for the first time, FPG's own admission that he is aware of megalomanic tendencies.

[3]Yet another confessional report of high-flying inspirations.

[4]This points to the year 1902 and the beginning of 1903, when Greve, born on February 14, 1879, was twenty-three years old. In a variety of sources it is attested that Greve and Else, wife of Greve's friend August Endell, became lovers at Christmas 1902. In late January, they went to Hamburg , stayed briefly at the posh Hôtel de L'Europe, and embarked for Palermo. The doubly betrayed husband was allowed to tag  along  as far as Naples, where he was left behind with a consolation bicycle.

[5]These two publications appeared while Greve was in Munich, and before his fateful infatuation with Else Endell in Berlin: Wanderungen was published privately in February 1902, Helena & Damon in March 1902.

[6]While in Munich, Greve tried very hard to be accepted by the poet Stefan George and his circle. Particularly, he was courting Karl Wolfskehl, as his correspondence amply demonstrates (in UMA Spettigue Collection, originals in Deutsches Literatur-Archiv, Marbach].

[7]Until April/May 1903, Greve and Else stayed in Palermo. from June 1903 to June 1904, Greve was imprisoned in Bonn for defrauding his friend Herman Kilian for the enormous sum of M10,000. After Greve's release, the couple stayed in voluntary exile, first in Wollerau, near Zürich, and then in Paris-Plage/Étaples on the French Channel coast. They moved back to Berlin in February 1906.

[8]This refers to the period of 1903 to 1907. Greve's two novels about Else's life appeared in 1905 -- Fanny Essler, and in 1906/7 -- Maurermeister Ihles Haus. The comedy likely refers to Der heimliche Adel, which appears to have neither been staged nor published.

[9]Note the megalomanic tone of this particular statement and earlier in this letter. Grove will have similarly megalomanic phases which are well documented in his correspondence. The version eventually published in the literary dictionary is much shorter, and has these strangely confessional passages obliterated -- see below for a side-by-side presentation of the two texts.

How to cite this e-document:

Divay, Gaby. "Greve's Autobiographical Sketch of March 1907: a Blueprint for Frederick Philip Grove's Invented Canadian Identity." Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, Archives & Special Collections, ©2001, e-Ed. 2005.
<http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~fgrove/bio/autob1907.html>
Accessed ddmmmyyyy [ex:20jan2005]. [browser preview: 6 p.]


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