FPG (Greve/Greve)
A Biographical Sketch







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Felix Paul Greve FPG Frederick Philip Grove
A Biographical Sketch


When Frederick Philip Grove came to Manitoba in September 1912, he claimed to be of Anglo-Swedish descent and nearly forty years old. He was actually born in 1879 in Radomno, West Prussia, which became not a "Russian-German", but a Polish- German border town after 1918, and since 1945, a town squarely within Poland's borders.

Raised in Hamburg, Greve graduated from the famous Gymnasium Johanneum in 1898. He then studied classical philology and archaeology in Bonn and Munich where he seems to have worked with A. Furtwängler on a monumental collection of Greek vases. His 1901 Munich police registration boldly states "Privatgelehrter", a lofty status for a barely twenty-three-year-old without a university degree.

Greve soon frequented Karl Wolfskehl in whose hospitable Schwabing salon he met a group of artists and writers surrounding Stefan George, the leading German poet of his time. His poetry collection Wanderungen and the lyrical Rococo play Helena und Damon were published privately during this time, and he started translating  for several renowned publishers. In September 1902, he briefly shared an address with Thomas Mann at the Pension Gisela, and it is reported that he danced with the unconventional Franziska von Reventlow.

In Berlin, Greve became involved with Else Endell who was the wife of his friend, the Jugendstil architect August Endell. All three set out for Palermo in late January 1903, Endell was left behind in Naples. Greve was arrested in May 1903 for defrauding his Anglo-German friend Herman Kilian for the enormous sum of 10,000 Mark, and he served a prison term in Bonn until June 1904. Upon  his release, he visited André Gide in Paris, whose Immoraliste he had begun to translate during his confinement. The "the Greves" then lived in Wollerau, Switzerland, and Paris-Plage, France, from where they paid several visits to H. G. Wells across the Channel. In early 1906 they returned to Berlin.

After some three years, the now highly prolific translator abruptly left for America in late July 1909, crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool to Montreal in second class on the White Star Liner Megantic, just as described in the opening pages of Grove's 1927 book A Search for America [without mentioning the ship's name -- his passage was not discovered until October 1998, more than seventy years later, and fifty year's after FPG's death). Apart from being heavily in debt, he had just double-sold his translation of Swift's Prose Works, and rather than risking another prison-term, he disappeared by staging his suicide. Anton Kippenberg, in a masterly reply to the alleged widow's accusations that his Insel Publishing Company had overworked, underpaid and unfairly criticized Greve, is reluctant to believe in his demise, but offers her financial support despite Greve's sizeable debts.

Else joined her husband in Pittsburgh a year later, where, in September 1910, she was arrested for cross-dressing and smoking in public. Within a year of their reunion, Greve abandoned her on a small farm near Sparta, Kentucky, in 1911, and made his way towards Canada, via the vast Bonanza Farm identified in 1996 as the Amenia & Sharon Land Company near Fargo, N.D. For her part, Else started posing in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and New York where she married Baron Leo von Freytag-Loringhoven. Under this name, she later became well-known in New York Dada circles which included artists like Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. Note that both Else and FPG became guilty of bigamy when they respectively remarried, one in New York in November 1913, the other in Swift Current, Canada, in August 1914.

After a decade of teaching in remote districts of rural Manitoba, Grove started to emerge as a Canadian writer from Rapid City in 1922. Often ignored, his first publication had been the Nietzschean essay "Rousseau als Erzieher" in the German-Canadian newspaper Der Nordwesten in November & December of 1914. It is not unlike Greve's rambling essays. Grove's first two books were nature studies inspired by weekly thirty-mile drives from Gladstone to his wife's school near Waldersee and Amaranth, Manitoba. Flaubert's symbolic realism, which Greve had embraced while translating his avowed model in 1904/5, is in full evidence here. Grove's first novel Settlers of the Marsh (1925) has a hidden autobiographical component: it deals with the year he spent farming with Else near Sparta, Kentucky, the setting being transformed into rural Manitoba pioneer country. His first autobiographical novel A Search for America appeared in 1927[ e-Ed. 2000], and covered the three "lost" years between Greve's 1909 passage and Grove's arrival in Manitoba. The Kentucky year is spared out, the time-frame is distorted by twenty years, and he appropriates former friend Kilian's entire family background is as his own. In the ca. 1925 typescript Jane Atkinson, Grove makes veiled references to Karl Wolfskehl, and quotes himself from his 1905 novel about Else's life, Fanny Essler. Further novels also are covertly autobiographical, with Fruits of the Earth and Master of the Mill, for instance, drawing on the Chaffee family's history and enterprises of the vast Bonanza Farm operation in North Dakota.

Grove began taking extra-mural studies at the University of Manitoba in 1915, and he obtained his B.A. in French and German in 1922. In 1914, he had married his fellow teacher Catherine Wiens, and the couple had a daughter in 1915. Phyllis May Grove died in Minnedosa during an appendicitis operation shortly before her twelfth birthday in 1927, and the Groves left Manitoba to settle in Ontario in 1929. Their son Leonard was born in Ottawa in 1930, while Grove was briefly involved with Graphic Publishers who had published his Search for America in 1927.

Despite the economically depressed conditions and increasing ill health, Grove continued to write and publish from his Simcoe estate, which he acquired in 1931, until his death on August 19, 1948. His true identity was not discovered until 1971 by D. O. Spettigue, whose papers documenting FPG's upbringing were deposited in the University of Manitoba Archives in 1986, and whose seminal book was made public in 1973.

The highlight of Grove's career as a Canadian author had been a highly successful, coast-to-coast lecture tour organized be the Canadian Club in 1928 & 1929. He had high hopes of securing a diplomatic position in Ottawa, but nothing ever materialized. Despite constant bitter complaints, Grove was highly regarded: among many further honours he received were the Lorne Pierce Medal in 1934, the election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1941, two Honorary Doctorates from his alma mater, the University of Manitoba (D.Litt.) and Mount Allison University (LLD) in 1946. For his autobiography In Search of Myself [1946, e-Ed. 2007] he received the Governor-General's Award in 1947, for non-fiction, which is ironic since Grove recanted many of the quite accurate accounts previously introduced in 1927, and applied far more "fiction" than "fact" in using Goethe's openly acknowledged autobiographical model in Dichtung und Wahrheit!.

From 1943 until his death, Grove also received monetary support from the Canadian Authors' Foundation. In April 1943, he ran -- without success -- for the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation in the Ontario provincial elections.


How to cite this e-document:
Divay, Gaby. "About FPG (Frederic Philip Grove / Felix Paul Greve): A Biographical Sketch. " Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, Archives & Special Collections, ©1995, e-Ed. 2005.
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