Bluestocking Feminism and British-German Cultural Transfer, 1750-1837

Bluestocking Feminism and British-German Cultural Transfer, 1750-1837

by Alessa Johns


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Bluestocking Feminism and British-German Cultural Transfer, 1750-1837 by Alessa Johns

Bluestocking Feminism and British-German Cultural Transfer, 1750–1837 examines the processes of cultural transfer between Britain and Germany during the Personal Union, the period from 1714 to 1837 when the kings of England were simultaneously Electors of Hanover. While scholars have generally focused on the political and diplomatic implications of the Personal Union, Alessa Johns offers a new perspective by tracing sociocultural repercussions and investigating how, in the period of the American and French Revolutions, Britain and Germany generated distinct discourses of liberty even though they were nonrevolutionary countries. British and German reformists—feminists in particular—used the period’s expanded pathways of cultural transfer to generate new discourses as well as to articulate new views of what personal freedom, national character, and international interaction might be. Johns traces four pivotal moments of cultural exchange: the expansion of the book trade, the rage for translation, the effect of revolution on intra-European travel and travel writing, and the impact of transatlantic journeys on visions of reform. Johns reveals the way in which what she terms “bluestocking transnationalism” spawned discourses of liberty and attempts at sociocultural reform during this period of enormous economic development, revolution, and war.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780472035946
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Publication date: 08/31/2014
Pages: 242
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Alessa Johns is Associate Professor of English, University of California at Davis.

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Bluestocking Feminism and British-German Cultural Transfer, 1750â"1837

By Alessa Johns

The University of Michigan Press

Copyright © 2014 University of Michigan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-472-12047-5


The Book as Cosmopolitan Object

Anna Vandenhoeck, Publisher, and Philippine Charlotte of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Collector

    Ihr Toren, die ihr im Koffer sucht!
    Hier werdet ihr nichts entdecken!
    Die Konterbande, die mit mir reist,
    Die hab ich im Kopfe stecken. ...

    Und viele Bücher trag ich im Kopf!
    Ich darf es euch versichern,
    Mein Kopf ist ein zwitscherndes Vogelnest
    Von konfiszierlichen Büchern.

    [You fools, who search in the suitcase!
    You'll discover nothing here!
    The contraband that travels with me,
    Is tucked away in my head. ...

    And I carry many books in my head!
    I can assure you of it,
    My head is a twittering birds' nest
    Of books to be confiscated.]

— Heinrich Heine, from Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen

Heinrich Heine's speaker of the 1840s ridicules the border guards who inspect his luggage for smuggled texts and thereby critiques the censorship, repression, and exile suffered by liberals in the Vormärz period. Though Heine's poem did not save his political allies from persecution, his image defiantly conveys the free and cosmopolitan status of the book, an object that will elude reactionary authorities and, birdlike, fly into minds and chirp unrestrainedly in subversive dialogue with other texts. Heine's depiction of books thus figures unhindered cultural transfer, a smooth movement of oppositional ideas across mental and political borders and an efficacious occupancy and activity in new territories. For all the satirical bitterness of his poem, the upshot of the image is idealistic and hopeful.

It may be surprising to find Heine introducing my chapter featuring two establishment late-eighteenth-century women who would perhaps have winced at his strident political stance, could they have seen into the future. However, I wish to suggest that Heine's capacity to imagine the efficacy of books as cosmopolitan objects, challenging a parochial and nationalistic politics in the 1840s, follows upon decades of intense interest, exemplified by my protagonists, in unimpeded literary transfer for the purpose of promoting enlightenment, internationalization, and the expansion of sociocultural authority. Heine will reappear in chapter 4; here, I will focus on how Anna Vandenhoeck, a British woman who became bookseller to the University of Göttingen, and Duchess Philippine Charlotte, a princess of Prussia who married the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, contributed significantly to the enlightenment transfer project in a milieu of increasing multilateral cross-Channel exchange.

Literary historians have delineated the major roles played by women in the eighteenth-century book market and the shape they gave to the republic of letters. Given women's centrality to each national culture, what part can they be said to have played in intra-European cultural transfer overall? It is a complex undertaking to contemplate simultaneously trade, gender, and nation, but doing so reveals facets of international exchange that have been inadequately studied and that alter the common story. I will consider books as material objects of transfer in eighteenth-century Europe, and I will ask how these texts, moving throughout the region in spite of wars and political tensions, shed light on feminist questions, particularly as they relate to cosmopolitanism and the rise of nationalism. Such questions are especially interesting with reference to Germany, not yet a country in the eighteenth century but a region with a confusing array of principalities and political alliances. Since Germany was not a unified nation, we can learn much from examining how the absorption of books from another culture, in this instance the British, paradoxically aided in national self-definition and at the same time furthered international connection.

Moreover, precisely because France dominated continental literary culture in the eighteenth century, there is much to learn from studying English-German links. Delving into relationships between Britain and the German principalities after the Hanoverian succession and before the French Revolution brings to light aspects of cultural exchange that scholars, both from the English and the German side, have largely ignored. Books as objects of exchange can tell us about the history of two nations generally viewed separately, but which were tied politically and in complex sociocultural ways.

For one thing, such a study aids our understanding of European literary history and highlights the political role of women as producers, consumers, and cultural promoters. Duchess Philippine Charlotte's role as a book collector is augmented by her goals as a hostess; her activities ultimately draw attention to the gradual displacement of French products from dominance in Germany. This meant both an opening for English books as well as German, and what has been viewed as incipient nationalism based on a bourgeois demand for an indigenous, German literature is shown simultaneously to have carried an international element. In addition, a look at the book trade allows us to revise how we think about class distinctions. The standard story is that of a court culture dominated by the products of French culture, and, again, a rising bourgeoisie demanding and producing German goods. The two are said to have come together only in the 1780s, especially in the court of Anna Amalia of Weimar. But a view of book publishing and collecting, particularly among women, suggests that a merging of aristocratic and bourgeois interests occurred earlier. Finally, the eighteenth-century European book market reveals what might at first appear to be a paradox: gendered cosmopolitanism. Rather than engaging in nonnational detachment based on notions of liberté and fraternité, as would the supporters of the French Revolution, bluestocking women display a patriotic cosmopolitanism characterized by cultural attachment. Tracing the movement of books between Britain and (what came to be) Germany thus offers fascinating insights into general European cultural links in the eighteenth century and suggests that women, despite their lack of a legal and political identity, were shaping politics by cultural means. In so doing they were beginning to create a class of their own, characterized by cultural and intellectual pursuits and a distinctive bluestocking ethos.

1. Göttingen: Academic Interests and Publishing

Some cultural ties between Britain and Germany clearly had political origins. After the establishment of the Personal Union, which made the Elector of Hanover, Georg Ludwig, King George I of England in 1714, the most prominent cultural link was represented in the founding of the University of Göttingen by George II in 1734. This institution was the brainchild of Gerlach Adolf von Münchhausen, a privy councillor of Hanover who became curator of the university and who energetically encouraged British-German transfer. The University of Göttingen was to be a modern institution, engaging in practical subjects to create a well-educated class of public servants and citizens. It would emphasize not only law, medicine, and theology but also political science and history. It would develop a botanical garden and an observatory. It would promote religious tolerance in order to appeal to students from beyond the borders of the electorate; and, indeed, it drew students from all over Europe. Among international students British were the most numerous. Matriculation records suggest that in a representative decade, 1770–80, up to 5 percent of students were British. George III sent his three youngest sons to study there, and many aristocratic and gentry families followed his example.

Professors had strong ties to Britain. Münchhausen encouraged Göttingen scholars to spend time there and to update their knowledge, especially in fields where British thinkers were at the forefront. Albrecht von Haller, for example, undertook educational travels in England, wrote a travel account, and remained influenced by things English his entire career, even publishing in late life a novel on Alfred the Great (1773) that touted the British political system and lionized George III. Extracts of his writings on physiology and blood circulation were translated and published in the Monthly Review and the Scots Magazine in the 1750s, his novel Usong was translated within a year of its German publication, and his Letters to his Daughter on the Truths of the Christian Religion appeared in three separate British editions between 1780 and 1807. He became first president of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and the first editor of its internationally respected critical journal, the Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen. He promoted the German translation of Samuel Richardson's novel Clarissa and wrote influential early reviews; these were translated into French and English, were published in the Gentleman's Magazine, and persuaded Richardson to revise the novel by adding footnotes to clarify Lovelace's character.

Other professors with strong ties to Britain included Gottfried Achenwall, a prominent political theorist who traveled to England and wrote extensively on what he viewed as the sources of English freedom; Johann David Michaelis, a renowned Biblical scholar who also traveled and corresponded with colleagues in England, was invited to join the Academies of Sciences in Paris and London, had works excerpted in the Monthly Review before they were fully issued in several British editions, and translated Clarissa into German (1748–53), which I will discuss in the next chapter.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–99), however, is the best known of the Göttinger professors to travel to England. He first came to accompany Göttingen students William Irby and Thomas Swanton home in April-May 1770. His connection with these high-ranking families (the young men were sons of a lord and an admiral) made possible introductions into elevated social circles, and he was even invited by King George III to visit the observatory in Richmond. The king then financed Lichtenberg's second trip to England, September 1774 to December 1775. Lichtenberg was a royal guest at Kew for the winter. He followed the political fortunes of John Wilkes and reported on the crisis with the American colonies; he observed English ways closely, commenting vividly on English street life, theater, manufactures, science, philosophy, and literature. Clarissa Campbell Orr has recently delineated his connections to Queen Charlotte. Surely with the queen's blessing he eventually became tutor to the three English princes who came to study in Göttingen. He was elected a member of the London Royal Society in 1793. Although he was a professor of physics, with interests in mathematics and astronomy, he is best known today for his trenchant aphorisms. His literary flair led him to coedit, with Georg Forster, the Göttingische Magazin der Wissenschaften und Literatur (1780–85), and in his last years he introduced Germans to the work of William Hogarth with his Ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche (1794–99). Among his prized possessions were a copy of Newton's death mask and a picture of the English king and queen that hung over the sofa in his garden house.

Other Göttingen institutions furthered the anglicization of the region. Münchhausen paid particular attention to the university library. He hired energetic and ambitious librarians, Joachim Matthias Gesner and later Christian Gottlob Heyne, who were themselves professors and developed a first-rate collection. From the start the Göttingen library vigorously bought English books; Bernhard Fabian calls it the "greatest repository of English books in eighteenth-century Germany." New books were quickly reviewed in the Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen, and they were incorporated into the first full bibliography of eighteenth-century English authors compiled, surprisingly, not by an Englishman in England but by the Göttinger assistant librarian Jeremias David Reuss: Alphabetical Register of all the Authors Actually Living in Great-Britain, Ireland, and in the United Provinces of North-America, with a Catalogue of their Publications (1791). Reuss wrote that since he possessed "most of the literary resources upon which an English author could draw ... it may perhaps not be too daring if he attempts to supply a work [i.e., this bibliography] which the English have not yet produced." From 1799 one could also consult the Göttinger Johann Gottfried Eichhorn's Litterärgeschichte, which, according to Fabian, represented "one of the most incisive accounts of literature and learning in England that were written in eighteenth-century Germany." Scholars in the area participated in an early form of interlibrary loan: Georg Forster in Kassel and Johann Gottfried Herder in Weimar requested that Heyne send them English volumes from Göttingen since the books could not be obtained any other way.

The founding of the university naturally had an impact on Göttingen's commercial life. Most notable was the creation of the influential publishing firm Vandenhoeck. Abraham Vandenhoeck, a Dutch bookseller born in The Hague around 1700 and active in London, was called to be bookseller and printer to the university in 1735. Münchhausen's international ties and his ambitions for the university clearly led him to choose Vandenhoeck for the job. Vandenhoeck died soon, however, in 1750. As a result his English wife, Anna, took over the firm. Born Anna Parry in 1709, she married Vandenhoeck in the 1720s. His London shop was to be found "at Virgil's Head over against the New Church in the Strand," and a broad variety of publications were sold there, including medical and theological and political titles in Latin and French as well as in English, alongside fictional, historical, and travel texts from all over Europe. Vandenhoeck expanded the business to Hamburg in 1732, and they moved to that city for a short period before being recruited to Göttingen in 1735. It took time and effort to import their equipment and set up shop; even procuring type and paper could prove difficult. But their position must have improved substantially by 1749, when we learn that Anna was able to afford a pleasure trip to Kassel via post coach, accompanied by English friends.

When Abraham Vandenhoeck died, Göttingen professors lamented his loss but expressed confidence in the capability of his wife to take over the work. In a letter to Johann Matthias Gesner, Albrecht von Haller wrote: "Nuper obiit Van den Hoeckius (magna mea cum iactura), sed vidua inceptos libros ad finem perducet" ("Vandenhoeck died recently, a great loss for me, but the widow will bring the initiated books to completion"), and Münchhausen too announced to the university his readiness to leave the business in Anna Vandenhoeck's hands under the current terms ("man [ist] nicht abgeneigt, der Wittwe das Capital auf den bisherigen Fuß in der Handlung zu lassen"). Vandenhoeck was not alone; she ran the operation with the help of her business manager Carl Friedrich Ruprecht, to whom she ultimately willed the establishment when she died in 1787. (The company, still going strong, is now called Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht and was run by the Ruprecht family for seven generations.) Vandenhoeck published landmark works of celebrated professors — Haller, Michaelis, Johann Stephan Pütter, August Ludwig Schlözer among them — alongside printing the necessary catalogs, notices, and incidental items for the university. By 1751, however, she found it expedient to divest herself of the printing side of the business in order to concentrate entirely on book publishing and selling.

For over thirty years Vandenhoeck was pivotal in making her company into one of the most respected publishers in Germany, and the shop in Göttingen was a destination for intellectual exchange. The law professor Johann Stephan Pütter explained how, especially during the Seven Years' War when French troops occupied Göttingen and citizens' movement was restricted within the town gates, Vandenhoeck's shop was the place for scholars to meet and enjoy conversation. She set special emphasis on foreign books, and English volumes in particular were available: the firm published the German translation of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa as early as 1748–53, and it created a reading circle so that foreign-language journals and newspapers would be available to customers. But Vandenhoeck's was not alone in promoting an English connection. Another later, prominent Göttinger bookseller, Johann Christian Dieterich, planned an entire series of English works to be edited by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, and the Weidmannsche Buchhandlung began translating English books with amazing rapidity. This firm was based in Leipzig, not Göttingen, but perhaps encouraged by the practice of booksellers exchanging volumes among themselves at the book fairs (gradually displaced in this period by payment in hard currency), it meant that Anna Vandenhoeck always had hundreds of English books, in the original and in translation, on offer at her shop. Friedrich Wilhelm Unger would later write, "It was Vandenhoeck's widow and Dieterich from Gotha who first brought life to the local book trade. ... There was hardly another place in the position of Göttingen to offer foreign and especially English books." Given the interest in international publications, a plan was developed around 1751 for a "world book company" to be established by selling stocks to 250 parties in order to raise the considerable capital of one hundred thousand taler, with the aim of facilitating the import and export of books to and from other European countries. A formal proposal was drawn up, an advertisement generated, and another Dutch bookseller, Elias Luzak, contracted to become the commercial organizer of this project, which was much favored by the Hanover regime. However, the scheme was never realized, though Luzak settled in Göttingen anyway and became a competitor for Vandenhoeck.


Excerpted from Bluestocking Feminism and British-German Cultural Transfer, 1750â"1837 by Alessa Johns. Copyright © 2014 University of Michigan. Excerpted by permission of The University of Michigan Press.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xiii

Introduction-Cultural Transfer and the Terrains Vastes 1

1 The Book as Cosmopolitan Object: Anna Vandenhoeck, Publisher, and Philippine Charlotte of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, Collector 17

2 Translation Following Clarissa: Georg Forster and Meta Forkel, Mary Wollstonecraft and Joseph Johnson 39

3 Representing Vesuvius: Northern European Tourists and the Napoleonic Culture of War 88

4 Travel and Transfer: Anna Jameson and Transnational Spurs to European Reform 121

Afterword-Les Terrains Plus Vastes 161

Notes 171

Works Gited 203

Index 221

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