March 1st Bruun Rasmussen offers an altogether unique album of highly interesting Danish origin. The album has belonged to Georg Brandes' daughter Edith Brandes (1879-1968) and it affords crucial insights into Georg Brandes' circle of acquaintances from all over the world. The Brandes family album was compiled in the course of half a century, from the 1890's to the 1940's. Between its splendid velour boards can be found numerous contributions by celebrities of world historic significance and renown from an entire era.
This album, then, is no mere collection of autographs. On the contrary, it is a testimony of the entire international culture that gravitated around the name of Brandes. It is estimated at EUR 67,000. The album of the Brandes family consists of more than 250 contributions in the form of letters, photos, autographs, drawings etc.
It contains an abundance of names that evoke the great culminations of History. Present among these names is Bismarck, J.P.E. Hartmann, Max Klinger, Edvard Grieg, Maurice Ravel, Claude Monet, Albert Einstein, Anatole France, Hugo von Hofmansthal, Alfred Schnitzler, Ernst Toller, Henrik Ibsen…we pause to breathe and continue…Henry James, Thomas Mann, John Stuart Mill, Auguste Rodin, Theodore Dreiser, Rainer Maria Rilke, Igor Strawinsky, August Strindberg, Leo Tolstoy, H.G. Wells, Alfred Dreyfus, Emile Zola, Stefan Zweig.... And then there are all the Danish names such as Herman Bang, Gustav Wied, Henrik Pontoppidan, Lorenz Frölich, L. Mylius-Erichsen, Johan Rohde, Vilhem Bissen and Knud Rasmussen. The many visual contributions include several features by the Skagen painters: In addition to a couple of portraits of fishermen by Michael and Anna Ancher, the album contains an original portrait in pencil of Georg Brandes, made by P.S. Krøyer who inscribed it for Edith.
This beautiful album was originally a present to the Brandes family from a Russian princess. In the course of several decades Brandes' daughter Edith collected memories and testimonies of her father's towering personality and his friendships in this album. Eagerly (and obviously very much helped by her father) she compiled the single contributions, affixed them with small handwritten commentaries and then entered them into the album. Eventually, however, the contributions were so numerous that she was forced to have the spine of the album made wider (10 cm.) so it would hold them all.
Georg Brandes: "The Literary Father"
Georg Brandes (1842-1928) is widely held to be one of the most crucial figures in Danish cultural history. He is seen as the father of modernism and played a major part in the comprehensive project of cultural radicalism. It is less known, perhaps, that he was also exceedingly famous abroad. Not only does the album of the Brandes family bear witness of his close personal ties to wide circles of European intellectuals, it is also a testimony of how deeply he was admired by many of the most acclaimed of his contemporaries. H.G. Wells is a case in point. This writer, who practically invented science fiction, writes to Edith: "Dear Mrs. Philipp. It must be very jolly to be the daughter of Georg Brandes who is the literary father of so many of us and the good uncle of all contemporary writers. Yours sincerely H.G. Wells." Voiced by one of the greatest writers of the age, it is hard to imagine greater praise.
Brandes and Ibsen: A Spiritual Brotherhood
Among the many contributions that show how attached the various contributors were to Georg Brandes, the Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen is perhaps most noteworthy. Georg Brandes wrote a study on Ibsen, who was arguably the greatest and most important playwright since Shakespeare, and they met several times.
Georg Brandes obviously saw Ibsen as his spiritual companion. November 1870, during one of his many travels, he was taken ill with typhoid fever and subsequently with phlebitis. Illness kept him bedridden in Rome for several months into 1871. From his hospital bed, a night in January 1971, he wrote a poem to Ibsen in which he frames the relationship between them. Here follows an excerpt of what he wrote:
"Often I gazed across the meadow
searching for a warrior-friend.
Brother! I found you.
What do I care
that you are without equal among knights
while I am just a mere footman in this war?
We are truly united in soul.
Yes, and we shall summon the spirits for rebellion!
Be it our calling to awaken them from their sleep
to inspire and to animate them.
However dark it is, we shall all have light.
Brother! Soon the haze will fall".
Henrik Ibsen's contribution to the album consists of an original, handwritten greeting to Edith along with two photos, one of which is also inscribed on verso. They are inserted in the beginning of the album which is probably no mere coincidence. Ibsen's greetings are characterised by a gentle tone of voice that is miles apart from the stereotype of the acerbic Scandinavian with which he was often associated. "Who does Edith resemble?", he wrote on the back of the photo, dated and signed July 18th 1893.
Ibsen probably found the answer to be self-evident. Yet, almost a month later, he chooses to remove all doubt: "Edith resembles no one but herself. And this makes Edith so very ---". Later, the same day, he writes again. This time he delicately hints at the scene that prompted his earlier praise: "One night two small girls sang so beautifully for me. I thank you for the song, Edith! Often, I believe I can hear it still." One can almost picture the scene: Ibsen and Brandes have just concluded a good dinner and are now listening with delight to Edith and her friend singing beautifully.
Zola and Justice
Among the other prominent names in the album is the great French writer Emile Zola (1840-1902). The wording "La vèrité est en marche et rien ne l’arretera" ("Truth is marching and nothing can stop it") is taken from his letter of protest “J’Accuse...!" ("I Accuse!"), first printed in the newspaper l'Aurore January 13th 1898. Few other newspaper writings have had so strong an effect on law and society as this article that was one of the main contributions to the elucidation of the Dreyfus Affair.
Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, had been convicted for espionage, a crime of which he was completely innocent. Zola, who by then was already famous, not least for his daring, could easily have done as so many other contemporary intellectuals and just voiced his general support for Dreyfuss. He chose, however, to take on the highest authorities and wrote an open letter of protest to the President in which he accused a number of high-ranking officers of having conspired against Dreyfus in an effort to cover for one of their own.
Zola only avoided a prison sentence by escaping to England in the nick of time. Later, both he and Dreyfus were cleared of all charges. Zola's contribution to the album was written in the year of his death. To this day, many historians still believe that he was killed by old enemies from the time of the Dreyfys Affair, although he was officially claimed to have died "naturally" of asphyxiation. Georg Brandes himself was very concerned about the incidence and wrote several articles about it.
Within Close Range of the Swedes
The Brandes album also boasts several of the greatest Swedish writers, including master storyteller Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) and August Strindberg (1849-1912). Nobel Prize Winner Lagerlöf contributed with an excerpt from one of her most important books, the classic Gösta Berling's Saga: "She thought of what the old songs had said about the turtledove, this bird of longing. Never does it drink clear water, without first muddling it with its foot, so as to render it more fitting for its sorrowful mind. Likewise, neither would she ever approach the fountains of life to drink clear, unmixed happiness. Life pleased her most when it was muddled by mourning".
The choice of Gösta Berling's Saga was by no means a coincidence. This her first novel had come out in 1891, but it had not sold well. Only when Georg Brandes reviewed the Danish edition favourably did the Swedes start to pay attention to this book. Later, it came to be recognised as one of the most important works in the revival of Swedish romanticism in the 1890's.
August Strindberg, arguably the Swedish writer, also contributed to the album. As is evident from the letters that were exchanged between them, Strindberg and Brandes were close friends. It was, for example, through Brandes that Strindberg made the acquaintance of Nietzsche who was to become very important for the playwright in his later writings: "Dear Sir, the first time I take the liberty of sending you a book, it is a poor book, written in times of worry to cheer me up. If indeed it should also prove to cheer you up for a while, between your many battles, it will at least have served some purpose. Who knows? In recognition and admiration, August Strindberg".
The text is dated December 14th 1887. Speaking of Nietzsche, the philosopher's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, dictated a letter to Brandes in which she unequivocally credits Brandes for having "discovered" her brother, thus doing intellectual Europe an immense service. That her own administration of her brother's writings was of no service to the world is another story.
"Mundus vult decipi"
Albert Einstein does not belong to the field of literature, but he can hardly be said to have had no influence on world history. In 1920 this great physicist wrote the pithy phrase "Mundus vult decipi", meaning of course "The world wants to be deceived", on the back of a photo. It remains an open question whether, by these words, he intended to emphasize his basic scepticism towards the progress of the world.
The Making of the Album
A letter from Georg Brandes, dated August 28th 1902, allows us to understand how Brandes helped his daughter compile the album: "My own sweet lass", he writes to Edith, "Annie Vivant came by from Chicago the other day to see me. She was grateful for what I have done for her. I commanded her to write you a poem. She pointed out that for many years now she had only written prose. But the very next day she returned with the following poem [which is then included in Brandes' translation]. It is without a doubt the best verse that has ever been written in your honour… your loving father".
However, as the above samples from the album will have made clear, it is not so much Edith as it is Georg Brandes himself who is honoured. It is he that is so highly applauded by the poets. Every page of the album (see the list below) tells its own story and bears witness of Brandes' importance in European intellectual history and his significance to artists, philosophers and writers alike.
List of Contributors:
Jeppe Aakjær, Georg Achen, Michael Ancher, Anna Ancher, Marie Gorki-Andreewa, Eugen d’Albert, Braun-Kirchberg, Bustabo Guela, Henry Barbusse, Bismarck, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Vilh. Bissen, Fern. Baldensperger, Otto Benson, Henry Becque, Edvard Brandes, Georg Brandes, Gerda Brandes, Marthe Brandes, Bajanoff, Herman Bang, Elimir Bourges, Reinhold Begas, Johan Bojer, Edv. Blaumüller, Albert Besnard, Ernst Bojesen, W. Brochocki, Bromfield, Michel Carre, Georges Clemenceau, Henrik Cavling, Victor Cherbulier, Marie Curie, Hertugen af Casanova, Gustav Cederström, Richard Dehmel, Holger Drachmann, Albert Dreyfus, Pierre Dolgoroukoff, Theodore Dreiser, Osip Dymow, Aage Dons, Gertrud Eysoldt, Albert Edelfelt, Carl Ewald, Chr. Eriksson, Albert Einstein, Loie Fuller, Ignaz Friedmann, Anatole France, Camille Flammarion, Oscar Fried, Lorenz Frölich, A. Fitger, Ludvig Find, Tom Forsner, Ludvig Fulda, Feuchtwanger, Friis, Gustaf af Geierstam, Yvette Guilbert, R. Goldofski, G. Gran, Axel Gallen, Evd. Gosse, Edvard Grieg, Lord Haldane, S (Kainz), Hutzler, Rinna Hauch, J.P.E. Hartmann, H. Hafstein, Paul Hervien, Anna Haugsted, Per Halström, Ludovic Halevy, Marcher Hinn, Georg Hirschfield, Wenzel Hagelstam, Maximilian Harden, Hanako, Hugo von Hofmannstahl, K. Hammerich, Harald Herdal, Henrik Ibsen, Jo. Joachim, Jo. Israels, Jean Jaures, Viggo Johansen, Henry James, Math. Jochumsson, A Kielland, Pietro Krohn, Pierre Krapotkine, Severin Krøyer, L. Kieselhausen, Ellen Key, C.v. Knorrig, Max Klinger, Ch. Kjerulf, Karageorgewitch af Serbien, Maxim Kovalevsky, Alf. Kerr, Bernh. Kellerman, Paul Krügers, Jonas Lie, Lutoslawsky, L. Loewe, Sv. Lange, O. v. Leitgeb, Th. Lammers, P. Lindow, Sv. Leopold, Selma Lagerlöf, W. Leistikow, Emil Ludwig, Lasko, Karl Larsen, J. Marni, Mirbeau, Meisel-Hess, Karin Michaëlis, Sophus Michaëlis, Victor Margueritte, Paul Margueritte, Camille Mauclaire, Mathilde Malling, Mylius-Erichsen, Thomas Mann, Cleo de Merode, Michelsen, A.E. Nordenskiöld, Avetis Nazarbek, Peter Nansen, Fridtjof Nansen, Ragna Norstrand, A. Nordin, Nordström, H. Nathansen, Nitti, A. Offen, Kejser Otto, Osakrak, Tora Offen, Henrik Pontoppidan, Grev Prozor, Jul. Poulsen, Powel, Gaston Paris, Ar. Point, L. Poe, Psichari, O. Philipp, R. Philipp, Pallenberg, A. Pinero, John Stuart Mill, Max Reinhardt, J. Reinach, H. le Roux, Fr. Rist, W. Runeberg, Helge Rode, Johan Rohde, Auguste Rodin, Rainer Marie Rilke, Clare Rilcke, G. Reicke, Knud Rasmussen, Chr. Rimestad, M. Ravel, Otto Rung, H. Rördam. P.W. Rubow, Scharwenka, Steinthal, W. Söderhjelm, Schandorf, W. Schofiled, E. Skram, Stepniak, Chr. Sinding, St. Sinding, A. Schnitzler, J. Stranik, Stanhope, N. Storojenko, Safonoff, Fr. Spielhagen, Amaile Skram, Severine, Stona, E. Struckmann, Sygietinski, Igor Strawinsky, Lou Salome, Upton Sinclair, H. Sudermann, Hj. Sacht, Joh. Sigurjonsson, August Strindberg, Stepniak, O. Thommessen, G. Treu, Leo Tolstoy, E. Toller, R. Tegner, Alexandra Taulow, Vorslund-Kiär, P. Vedel, V. Volmer, Wagner, H.G. Wells, A. Vivanti, Vesselovsky, E. Verharen, B. Wolff, Gustav Wied, Weingartner, G. Wennerberg, Fr. Wedekind, A. de Wahl, Kejser Wilhelm II, Werenskjold, Erik Vendelfont, Emile Zola, Kr. A. Zahrtmann, Zita af Ôsterrige.
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