Facebook-Blog, September 18, 2013

In the Meersburg, Lake Constance

„Mein Thurm ist köstlich, d.h. meinem Geschmacke nach einsam, graulich, – heimliche Stiegen in den Mauern – Fensterscheiben mit Sprüchen von Gefangenen eingeschnitten – eine eiserne Thür die zu Gewölben führt wo es Nachts klirrt und rasselt – und nun drinnen mein lieber warmer Ofen, – mein guter, großer Tisch mit Allem darauf, was mein Herz verlangt, Bücher, Schreibereyen, Mineralien, – und als Hospitant mein klein Kanarienvögelchen, das mir aus der Hand frisst und die Federn verschleppt. O, es ist ein prächtiges Ding, der runde Thurm! ich sitze darin wie ein Vogel im Ey, und mit viel weniger Lust heraus zu kommen…“*

(„My tower is delicious, that means for my flavor forlorn, graulich, – secret stairs in the walls – panes with patterns of imprisoners engraved – an iron door who leads to an arch where it’s clanging and rattling in the night – and now inside I have my good warm oven, – my good big desk with all of it what my heart is longing for, books, inkstands, minerals,  and as a trainee my smallish canary eating from the palm of my hand, losing its feathers. O, it is a splendid thing, the round tower! I sit in it like a bird in its nest, and with very less desire to go out…“)

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848) wrote this in 1844 few years before she died, living in the old Meersburg at Lake Constance. There she has found – due to the marriage of her sister Jenny with Joseph von Laßberg – her nest und there she was able to work on her own (miles away from her often almighty, overwhelming mother). Annette was not an – often critical and satirical – author only: she was a composer, too: she wrote nice songs for voice and piano for domestic use. In her youth she was a very good singer – her voice often had been compared with the voice of the former superstar Angelica Catalani (1780-1849).

Furthermore, Annette was one of the first people searching for music of the Middle Ages: she edited the melodies of the „Lochamer Liederbuch“ (~1460) and created four libretti for operas (fragmentarily keeped). With the help of the music she was able to forget: the opprobrium of a youth trauma. Two young men have bet that they will get Annette „ready for sex“. Annette first felt very carressed – but then the two men dumped her feelings. For 12 years Annette avoided to get in their near. With her stepson Levin Schücking she never had had a love affair, he was just her muse. Annette complained in a letter about why the society isn’t able to accept platonic friendships between women and men.

Because Annette was a lesbian. She has had an affair with Sibylle Mertens-Schaaffhausen (1797-1857), the beautiful „Rheingräfin“ who was an amour of Adele Schopenhauer (1797-1849). With Amalie Hassenpflug (1800-1871), the sister-in-law of the sole sister of the brothers Grimm, Annette lived an off and on relationship. Side by side the two women are buried in a grave (Meersburg cemetery) hiding some secrets I’m looking for.

Annette was a master of lesbian camouflage. Lots of her poems she wrote are for or dedicated to women – very erotic dream poems, hiding her desire with a lyrical I and You, later interpreted by society and science as heterosexual roles. Levin Schücking was one of the playmakers: he nearly extinguished all of her relationships to women creating an „Annette monopoly“ for himself to get all the rights on her writings. Angela Steidele, a very renowned author, 10 years ago swept these old understandings away. But Annettes image as an „old maid“ (with no sexual activities) is continuing.

Annette wrote two fairy tales for the Brothers Grimm: „Snow White“ and „Von einem, der auszog, das fürchten zu lernen“ – Annette prefered atrocity stories. Sometimes she felt scary in her tower in the castle. Since the Middle Ages unchanged its a bit like a mummy – fusty and gray in the dark corners and demised parlors.

In summer of 2013 I was there and it was a pleasure to be where Annette was, where she sat and wrote and laughed and cried, played music and listened to the lake telling her his stories of water…

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annette_von_Droste-Hülshoff (the passage „…als Musikerin und Komponistin“ is written by me)

Book recommendations:
Angela Steidele: „Als wenn Du mein Geliebter wärest…“: Liebe und Begehren zwischen Frauen in der deutschsprachigen Literatur 1750-1850 (out of print). Metzler 2013.
Angela Steidele: Geschichte einer Liebe  Adele Schopenhauer und Sibylle Mertens-Schaaffhausen. insel 2011.

Elke Weigel: Der Traum der Dichterin. Die Sehnsucht der Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. Gmeiner-Verlag 2015.

* http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/-2836/37 (February 26, 2016).