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Wednesday, October 24, 1900
This is a letter of congratulations. So it's true that success is possible! There will probably never be a second printing in store for me (who knows what hidden difficulties lie slumbering in times to come), but the thought is still refreshing. I really did get a kind of fright when I heard the news. Two thousand copies in one and a half or two weeks! Warm congratulations and my wishes for things to continue so. Every fourteen days 600 marks, that really would be a very nice annuity. I, too, am beginning to believe in the little green house.
I'm also a little famous these days; but not so famous. Piepsam caused a stir in all directions. I've gotten letters of praise and offers of introduction, and even hear that enthusiastic writers are sending me their books in care of my editors. The consciousness of having had an effect is truly sweet; but it only intensifies the need to bring to the effectiveness a somewhat larger style.
As you see, I'm already disabled and, indeed, so severely that I was sent here on Sunday, after having been kept sick in quarters for eight days. The problem is with my right foot, which--something I never suspected--is a flatfoot, and has been badly aggravated by the parade march exercises. Let it be blessed a thousandfold in other respects, for, according to the young doctors, after eight weeks it will probably oblige Dr. von Staat to discharge me. All I have to do, they add in cunning confidence, is keep getting pains in it. They are two kind young people assisting the chief doctor and they stop by twice a day, know my work, and are always very courteous.
I am decidedly happier here in general than in the barracks. That it's boring is true, and I'm weak from all the time spent in bed; but Grautoff, who in these bad days has taken on the role of love's messenger between myself and freedom, keeps me well supplied with reading materials. I am even studying my Savonarola as if I were at home. The food is a little crude, but solid and good.
Everything possible will probably be done to keep me in the army. I'm supposed to rest now for a few days, and then get a kind of compress bandage, which is supposed to correct the alignment of my foot. Who knows if that will work and how long it will take. If I were healthy, I could already start living at home as of today. I have to inquire, cautiously and as the opportunity arises, as to how it would be received if I proposed getting private treatment.
How are things with you? I'm writing to Riva on the chance that you are still there, though I don't know. Mama wrote me recently that you were wanting to return to Munich right away. Why not? It's cool here, but otherwise not bad. My empty room is available for you to work in.
I'm very curious to see how my affairs here will turn out. The stupid fellow who declared me fit for service simply overlooked my foot. The people here are always very slow about retroactive discharges for the reason that they fear being forced to pay compensation. I think one has to waive everything of that sort in writing. Compensation in my case would amount to only about 500 marks anyway. But it would be lovely if it were possible as early as this spring for me to depart on my research trip to Florence!
Holitscher sends his greetings. He dedicated his Vergifteter Brunnen to me, and wrote me a very grateful letter concerning "The Way to the Churchyard." I have enlisted him to send a copy of the relevant Simplicissimus to Fischer and, at the same time, ask for news about Buddenbrooks. I still know nothing about the fate of that honorable family. Good tidings would be very pleasant for me at the moment. Fischer should simply take the book as it is. Of its literary success I am certain; commercially it will probably be closer to zero and my profit the same, although Mama recently gave me strict instructions to demand 1,000 marks.
Warm greetings, and write to me here.
Warmly yours, T.
Garrison Infirmary, Munich
Friday, November 2, 1900 (All Souls' Day)
Many thanks for your letters, both of which finally arrived in order, despite Dr. von Staat's lengthy attempt to prevent delivery, and for the card from Ferrara with the monument, which pleased me especially. The figure is very inspiring. Might you not be able to find a larger photograph of it and send it to me rolled up--to HerzogstraBe, for this time it really is likely that I shall not be here much longer.
In principle everything remains the same with my feet. The sodium silicate bandages (a substitute for plaster) have been taken off and, since the inflammation has not yet gone down completely, they will now be treated once more with wet poultices. But they are built badly and will stay that way; and for that reason I now want to be released back to duty soon, so that the first exercises will promptly cause them to fail again. In fact, they want me to purchase--at a considerable sum--springy insole supports for flat feet or even specially designed footwear; but if I'm not directly forced, I shall not do so, for my belief is that whoever has limbs requiring the correction of some kind of apparatus is not fit for active duty, and I think I shall be able to have this view prevail. When? That, of course, I can't say; but it would be very nice if I were already free by Christmas, and then I really would like to move to Florence soon after, to read what I need to on the spot. But, unfortunately, things have not progressed that far as yet, and then there is the question of what I would do with the apartment and my furniture. That will be easily taken care of, however, once I'm moving around again in the plain coat of free man.
What you wrote about our relation to the public and our kind of success made me distinctly melancholy. It is true that the effect achieved is always fundamentally the wrong one, and successes are really only capable of gratifying one who is vain, which, fortunately, I am a little. But the way you describe the success of Cockaigne is surely not the nature of it. Among your readers there are, of course, curious schoolboys and shop clerks; but I don't think the primary appeal for the public consists so much in the erotic as in the satire and social criticism, for which readers in Germany are just now remarkably receptive. The purely artistic efforts are lost, naturally, but the social satirical remains a much more worthy effect than the sexual.
I'm not doing well at the moment, for my worries about Buddenbrooks seem only to have begun now that it is finished. Fischer wrote to me after he had read the first half, and therefore did not yet know anything. After a few bits of exaggerated praise and some criticism, he arrived at the conclusion that he would be very inclined to publish it if I were willing to cut the book down by half. He was so shocked himself by this villainous demand, that he immediately called it "monstrous" and nearly begged my pardon; but, as a publisher, that was what he had to say. The sad story is simply that the novel amounts to more than a thousand pages and would have to appear in two volumes, which, at 8 to 10 marks each and in current circumstances, would be really and truly unsellable. Nevertheless, I am insisting that the book appear as it is, for, wholly aside from the question of my artistic conscience, I simply do not feel that I have the strength to set pen to it once again. Only extreme exertion allowed me to finish it and now I want finally to be freed of it so I can occupy myself with other things. In my extensive reply to Fischer, then, I refused resolutely to cut the book, but showed myself to be very flexible and resigned in regard to everything else. As things are now, I'm prepared to sign any contract that merely preserves the appearance that I am not simply giving away the work of three years. I instructed him to draw one up that offers him security, more or less; that limits, conditions, or reassigns the royalties, and stipulates, for example, that a potential loss on his part will be compensated by me out of later royalties. But he is to put the book out as it is. There is a distinction, after all, between long and long-winded! Even today a two-volume novel is not an absolute impossibility! And then I said to him that this novel was by no means the last book I would ever give him, and that ultimately everything depended upon whether he--also as a businessman--believed a little in my talent and was willing, or not, to stand up for it once and for all. Now I must return to waiting patiently, until he has read the story through to the end and writes again. The situation is difficult, difficult and in danger of proceeding badly. It would be very sad if I were left sitting with the book; I can already feel how that would make it harder for me to continue producing.--Incidentally--now you are not the only one receiving abusive postcards. I got a rhymed one about Piepsam, saying that I'm obviously a guzzler myself and therefore should "leave off" with the "scribbling." How charming! Dr. Geheeb sent me a whole package of new publications from the press in consolation, along with the request that I cause another such pleasant scandal right away.
As to the question of whether it's a fifth or a sixth, I have already written very insistently to Mother, and your letter will probably do the rest. I'm simply rather positive that we are to receive fifths. After all, it would be senseless to operate among five people with sixths, and Mama wanted and initiated that same division.
I'll let you know when I change my address again. The time to come is likely to be very unpleasant for me, since I'll be back in training and have to make up a lot of exercises and, at the beginning, still have to sleep in the barracks. And I'm so weak from all the time in bed that I don't know how I'm supposed to manage it. If only they wanted to make an end of it and throw me out!
Warm regards, Your T.
Munich, Sunday, November 25, 1900
Today at last I can get around to sending a word to you, although it must be brief and provisional, for I am dead tired.
I received your last letter at HerzogstraBe just when I was temporarily on my feet again. Discharged from the hospital, I soon found myself back on the sick list once more, because my foot relapsed after the first few steps. After another week on my back under the most repugnant circumstances, I drilled for a few days and then reported sick again, partly because I really was, partly to make them release me. But nothing happened and since Wednesday I have been back on duty. This has its pleasant side, since today is the first Sunday in a long while that I've spent outside the infirmary, the most unhealthful and abhorrent place I have ever seen in my life. What will happen now is uncertain. Through Mama's intervention, I have consulted her doctor, Hofrath May. He has examined my foot and does not think I will be able to do my military service. Moreover, he knows both my captain and the chief medical officer personally, and when I have to report sick again--which will probably happen sooner or later, possibly as early as next week--he is going to intercede for me. I am firmly convinced that I will not serve out the year; but nobody knows how long the matter will drag on. Perhaps I shall be free next week, perhaps by New Year's, perhaps later. You see that with the best will in the world I can't tell you anything definite about my trip to Florence. Besides, I think that after my discharge I'll need a while to rest and recuperate; the way I feel now, I wouldn't like to climb aboard an express train. I wish I could make promises and give you clearer, more pleasing answers. But things are obscure and uncertain, and I have neither time nor strength to arrange them more satisfactorily. You will have to see how you make out with Florence, Riva, and your funds; I can't promise anything. But of course I shall send word the instant any change whatsoever takes place.
They are really giving your Cockaigne a grand sendoff. Grautoff told me about the new squib that links it to Sternberg.
Schaukal is a queer bird. He has also sent his works to me and his portrait with them: probably the result of his becoming acquainted with Lobgott Piepsam. Wiesskirchen is in Moravia, and I hear that Schaukal, who married rich, occupies some government post there. God knows what he sees in me, for it is obvious that he is much closer to you. Just leafing casually through his books, I found a good deal that was appealing; but in general I am a poor reader of verse, and my Tolstoyism already predisposes me to feel that rhyme and rhythm are wicked.
Nothing new yet about Buddenbrooks. The Konig von Florenz is resting, of course; but I have received The Civilization of the Renaissance and see that the two volumes contain some magnificent material. How is your Duchess going?
I hope I can soon give you good news about all pending questions.
December 17, 1900
You see, all has turned out well--at least for the moment, and such problematical creatures as I am are prone to stick to the moment.
All that was needed, of course, was the establishment of a private and social relationship to the medical powers-that-be; I owe it to Mama's doctor, whom you know. He is friendly with the Medical Corps major and worked on him, so that now I have been declared unfit for infantry service and have been given a furlough in anticipation of my deferment's being confirmed by the highest authorities. I am allowed to wear civilian dress, and until my official departure from the regiment I need only show myself in the barracks every so often, in order to have my presence in Munich certified and the furlough extended. It is, as I say, merely a declaration of unfitness for the infantry and a deferment. What will happen next year--whether I shall then continue the gay and glorious soldier's life in the supply wains or the artillery--is in God's hands. I keep thinking I should be able to avoid it one way or the other. Couldn't I withdraw at the right moment to some medicinal baths or similar refuge? We'll have to talk about it. For in these two and a half months I have really had enough of the flurry of barracks and infirmary.
Good luck can never be complete, so just at this time the painful business of paying taxes had to come along and give me some temporary anxiety about my trip to Florence. But it will have to be managed and so it will be, as Fontane would say. I still don't know when, exactly. My deferment might come through by the year's end, but it might also drag on to the middle or even end of January. So perhaps I shall not start out before the beginning of February, and I imagine that two months, February and March, will do me quite well for Florence.
So you plan to do something else later on along the lines of Cockaigne? I believe Grautoff will tell you all about Sternberg. I know almost nothing--only that he is very fond of children and has set in motion one of those proliferating corruption trials Berlin is so proud of. Yes, I received Ewers's article, "A New Social Novel." A bit sloppily written, but it certainly must have gained buyers for your book. In general I imagine that its success is even greater than we know. Engels recently included the novel in his Christmas book list in the Munchener Zeitung among the books every self-respecting person must own. At any rate, the way has been beautifully smoothed for the Duchess.
If only I knew what is to become of Buddenbrooks! I feel certain that it has some chapters not everyone can write nowadays, yet I fear that it will be left on my hands. So far there is nothing of the Konig von Florenz but the psychological points and a formless dream: the rest is yet to come. The ambiguity of the title is of course intentional. Christ and Fra Girolamo are one: weakness become genius dominating life. Supreme moment: the bruciamento delle vanita.--Incidentally, all sorts of materials for stories are running through my mind now, so it is very possible that a volume of tales will be ready before the drama I have set my heart on.
I've forgotten two things: First, Grautoff asks me to tell you that the brochure about Sternberg he promised you may be out of print or banned. Otherwise you will receive it. Second: my Burckhardt is the seventh revised edition and it cost, in elegant format, twelve marks. "Revised" scarcely implies new material, and six lire is at any rate temptingly cheap.
I am tenderly cherishing my freedom. It will, of course, be even better when the day comes that I am finally and fully free. But one must be grateful, and in this sense: Dear God, hurray, hurray, hurray.
Did you receive the 100 marks? I have yet to hear anything about it.
December 29, 1900
Warm thanks for the two pictures, the interesting Napoleon copper, and the very beautiful Murillo. I'm planning to get nice frames for both of them, with one for the Madonna that will allow me to keep it on my desk. I did the same this year as last, I believe: I have finally given up sending anything to you. And what would it be? Italy is a good place to send presents from; but the Frauenturme as an ink and sand set or something similar--that doesn't work so well.
Did you spend a pleasant Christmas with the Hartungens? Here it was very peaceful and nice; the Lohrs were all there, the food was good, and my escape scot-free from the dreadful business with Dr. von Staat left me feeling serene and happy. Today I was in uniform once more, to be designated "unfit for duty at the present time" and released back to the enlistment authorities. That means, presumably, that I will have to appear one more time before the Enlistment Commission, hopefully not much more than a formality, since, first, I am already a fairly old fellow and, second, I can "produce" as many attestations as the gentlemen could possibly want.
So my trip to Florence is now, thank goodness, only a question of money, whereby it unfortunately does remain a question. The two hundred and some marks for taxes, which Mother is intractably resolved upon deducting from my allowance for the coming quarter, turn me quite simply into a church mouse, and I don't know what is supposed to happen. For you, with your income from Cockaigne, it makes no difference; but it destroys me. Thank God I'm working again now, even though not on Savonarola, which I can only creep around in cautious silence, but on a new story of a bitter-melancholic character, and I hope to gain a little income in that way. Nor does the conscience allow one to go on recuperating for very long, since working without pen and ink is something one scarcely dares to call "work," even to oneself.
The Secession is once again holding a Copieen exhibition of Florentine Renaissance sculpture (della Quercia, Pisano, della Robbia, Fiesole, etc.): extremely interesting for me, because the busts offer such a pleasant way to get to know the type of people from that time. What all there must be to learn in Florence! If only I could get there, my soul's dearest dream would come true. I would have a good deal to say in the play, but I'm far from a sufficient mastery of the necessary externalities; and such material is not to be had from a couple of books.
I almost forgot: I shall probably experience my first trial shortly. Because Mr. Tesdorpf expressed the view in a letter to Mama that I had freed myself from military service by simulating infirmity, whereupon I dispatched a strongly spiced letter (finally! what good it did me!), the most malicious of my life, which so hit its mark (oh, to have talent!) that the old ass is now threatening to sue. Can I not calmly await that eventuality?
Let me hear from you again.
Warmly, Your T.
January 8, 1901
I find nothing by Ewers. If the Berliner Tageblatt has gone and lost a manuscript of his, he can at least claim compensation, can't he? But that isn't what matters; rather, we must now settle my Florentine project. I sat down between two candles to work it out and am still pale from the effort. Here in Munich, you know, figures are largely meaningless to me, and so I managed hitherto to deceive myself hopefully and frivolously about the facts. Compelled to look them squarely in the eye, I find I must say with Vicco: "I'm all a-tremble!" The truth in its horrid nakedness is that after cashing what remains of my fifth, ignoring my civilian tailoring debts, ignoring the rent, and even apart from the allowance for Mama (which I cannot ignore), I shall have some 240 marks. "You ask--o please don't ask me, why!" Enough; that's how it is. The sheet of paper with its irrefutable sums lies beside me. To repeat them here sickens me. No extras in sight for the near future. What I am writing now will be too long for Simplicissimus, and won't be finished overnight in any case, and Fischer is silent about Buddenbrooks. The situation remains: 240 marks for a quarter of a year, and to try and travel on that would be insanity. Not only can I not come on the 15th or the 20th; I cannot come to Florence before April. I've had to come to terms with that these past few days, and I'm only sorry that I strung you along in a pleasant hope that completely lacked a solid basis. I could eventually swallow the postponement if it weren't for the awkward fact that spring is just when you want to come back up here again. I rather enjoy being in Munich in the winter, and would miss a good deal if I left now. There are all sorts of premieres; Richard Strauss is coming, Wullner is coming; the programs of the Literary Society are in the offing; I can write stories and for the present read Burckhardt and Villari. So I'll get through the winter all right. Are you absolutely set on coming back by the beginning of April? I don't quite see what you want to be here for, and why you can't stay down there at least until May. If I had to spend two weeks or so alone in Florence after you left, I wouldn't mind. The moment you tell me that we can be together in Florence for the month of April, I shall be comforted, and you after all will manage to spend your time quite well in the company of the Hartungens and the Duchess. Incidentally, I realize that I ought to give you a more detailed explanation of my money problems, but it would be humiliating and pointless. Please, let me have your comments only on the possibilities for April.
Certainly, Cockaigne was highly praised by Leo Greiner in the Munchener Zeitung, and so was Holitscher's latest. Don't you receive the clippings from Langen? Dr. F. Grautoff sends you his regards. He likes your book very much, he says, but the publisher of the Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten won't permit an article on it.--Incidentally, the advertising is magnificent. I heard recently that there were notices about the book on the Variete's programs.--Does Langen mean to underwrite your studying in Paris? You certainly could manage that if you wanted to. How well looked-after you are, and how brightly your star is beginning to shine. Fischer is silent, as I said, and if I send him an inquiry I'll probably have the changeling shot right back to me. Suppose nobody wants the novel? I think I would become a bank clerk. These fits come over me sometimes.
Warmly, Your T.
January 21, 1901
Just the two enclosed clippings for today, which you can send back to me--there's no hurry--when you have a chance. The raving praises from the Neueste are, of course, by Grautoff. But the truth is that Piepsam inspired spirited good cheer with almost every sentence and met with continuous applause. That I read well pleases me especially, and I'm proudest of the fact that Director Stollberg (from the Schauspielhaus), who was there, seemed to have enjoyed it extraordinarily; he applauded demonstratively and reserved for me a special bow. Such a theatrical director is such an important power!
I also sent the clippings to Fischer. As regards Buddenbrooks, I'm beginning to have hopes. Holm, who has recommended repeatedly that I go ahead and move to Langen, reassured me again emphatically, at a gathering he held recently, that Langen would have nothing in principle against a two-volume novel. He also spoke very amicably and temptingly about how he would stand by my side in my financial dealings with Langen. As a result, I have recalled Fischer's attention to the matter, and can await his decision to drop me or not with more confidence than I had before.
Nothing more for this time. About Capus and the books in the days just ahead.
Warmly, Your T.
January 25, 1901
If no newspapers print excerpts of Capus, then the book will appear in March or April, otherwise only in the fall.
Rieger couldn't find the Yriarte books in his catalogues. I instructed him to find out about them; that, however, will take another couple of days.
The enclosed review of Cockaigne was written by Martens for Die Zeit. It was already set, but then was forced aside by another, by whom and of what sort I don't know. Aside from the audacious assertion that literary worth rises and falls with the seriousness of a work, it contains probably the most reasonable of all that has been said about the book.
I want to arrange things now so that--if I have money and no other obstacles are put in my way, for example, by the military authorities--I will depart around the 15th of March. Until then I'll no doubt be busy here in every way. Then we will be together for half a month in Florence, and at the beginning of April I can expect Grautoff to be there; he also wants to make the trip if he can manage somehow to come up with the means. If we could meet then in Venice afterwards, that would be very nice. If it is at all possible, I would also like to see Ferrara and Bologna; perhaps on the return trip? Hopefully, we'll able to do everything just as we desire.
Holitscher sends his kindest regards; he will give me the book on English art shortly and then I shall send it to you. Pardon my terseness. If I don't begin letters with a fast, businesslike tone, I dawdle around with it for three hours, and then the day is gone. Whereby I only finish anything anyway after finishing is no longer any fun. One gets much irritation and little joy from oneself, as human being and artist. Enough. Otherwise I would deliver even more such Joachim-Pamps adages.
Warm regards, till we meet.
February 13, 1901
I hope you have received the art book. Holitscher has sent it to you with his regards and best wishes for the progress of the Duchess.
Unfortunately I still cannot give you any information about the French books, the reason being that for the present I cannot show my face in Rieger's book shop. Some time ago, you see, on impulse and whatever the cost, I ordered the German edition of Vasari, and only afterwards learned from Grautoff that it is a book of so and so many volumes priced at easily a hundred marks, and moreover truly dull. Whereupon I naturally did not call on Rieger again. I hope you will find out what you need some other way, and I shall have a look at Vasari in the library, if I find it necessary.
Is all well with you? I go through ups and downs. When spring comes, I shall have behind me a terribly turbulent winter. Really dreadful depressions with quite serious plans for self-elimination have alternated with an indescribable, pure, and unexpected inner joy, with experiences that cannot be told and the mere hint of which would naturally sound like boasting. But these highly unliterary, very simple and vital experiences have proved one thing to me: that there's something sincere, warm, and good in me after all, and not just "irony"; that after all everything in me is not blasted, overrefined, and corroded by the accursed scribbling. Ah, literature is death! I shall never understand how anyone can be dominated by it without bitterly hating it. Its ultimate and best lesson is this: to see death as a way of achieving its antithesis, life. I dread the day, and it is not far off, when I shall again be shut up alone with my work, and I fear that the egotistic inner desiccation and overrefinement will then make rapid progress.--But enough! Amid all these alternations of heat and frost, exaltation and suicidal self-disgust, a letter from S. Fischer blew in telling me that come spring he wanted, first, to bring out a second small volume of my stories and then, in October, Buddenbrooks, uncut, probably in three volumes. I shall have my picture taken, right hand tucked into the vest of my dinner jacket, the left resting on the three volumes. Then I might really go down happy to my grave.--But no, it is good that the book is going to see the light after all. So much of what is characteristically my own is there that it really will define my profile for the first time--for our esteemed colleagues in particular. Incidentally, I have heard nothing about Fischer's terms, which will probably consist of cautious codicils in respect to remuneration.--As for the volume of stories, it will be a thin one meant to yield no more than a quick refreshening of my name and some pocket money. The contents will be: (1) "The Way to the Churchyard" (as the tide piece), (2) "Little Lizzy," (3) "The Wardrobe," (4) "Avenged," (5) a burlesque that I am working on at the moment and that will probably be called "Tristan." (Isn't that something! A burlesque named Tristan?) And possibly also (6) A long-planned novella with the ugly but thrilling tide "Literature." (Illae lacrimae!)
As of this moment it seems I shall leave for Florence on the 15th of March. It depends on whether I can finish up the things I must get done before that date, for I am quite sure I can raise the money, especially since I have Fischer's explicit assurance that he is "altogether not of a mind to drop" me. Of course I will let you know in good time. Let me hear how you are doing, for a change.
Warmly, Your T.
February 28, 1901]
It is certainly looking more and more like nothing will come of the 15th either, but that I shall leave only after the first of April, if Grautoff is also traveling to Fl[orence], although I know quite well that this is being handled quite unwisely and that your influence would be the only proper one for me in the moment. I cannot imagine that you are taking offense at my unreliability? The promised confessions I shall leave or put off after all, first, because I'm unsettled and, second, because you are not likely to be in the mood to hear them right now. Sincere congratulations on the translation of Cockaigne into French! What fun that must be for you! In a word, you are flourishing, while inside I am really falling to pieces. At bottom I desire nothing more than a good case of typhoid fever and a satisfactory exit--although it is rather tactless to make you nervous with such statements. (To be Continued)