There Are No Winners in the History of German Literature

Shortly before leaving the bookmines I finally had the chance to read in the large and representative tomes of “Das Bayerland. Illustrierte Monatsschrift für bayerische Geschichte und Landeskunde”. And besides other things I found an article about the mother of August von PLATEN.
The bookmines are situated south of Ansbach in the middle of nowhere. And Ansbach (Ger., Eng.), as every small country town anywhere in the world, is proud of any great daughter or son of the “city”: Among these is August von PLATEN-HALLERMÜNDE (1790-1835) (Ger., Eng., works), a poet. August was the child of August Philip von PLATEN (1748-1831) and Louise Friederike EICHLER von AURITZ (1765-1842). It was the second marriage for his father; the first with a born von REITZENSTEIN went wrong, after six children they realized that they were not made for each other and divorced in 1792. August Philip von PLATEN was of lower-saxonian origin, had met the Markgraf of Ansbach in London and a kind of friendship seems to have developed. The Markgraf liked to travel with small acompagnie and to this inner circle the father of our poet belonged.
PLATEN received a small stipendium from the Bavarian king and thus could travel and write – of course he went to the land of desire for all the Northerners: Italy. PLATEN belongs to the late Romantics and was very proud of his skill to master forms, like sonnets, and even those not so common, like for example the Ghasel (Ger., Eng.). This Persian form was made popular by GOETHE and in the first half of the 19th century every poet worth a penny had to try it. I am in no way able to criticise PLATENs work, generally he is understood to have mastered this and other forms very well, his Ghaselen were published 1821.
The poet Karl IMMERMANN (1796-1840) (Ger., Eng.), together with his friend Heinrich HEINE (1797-1856) (Ger., Eng.), turned away from the late Romanticism – and he wrote some Xenien (yet another poetic form, Ger., Eng.) about this, which HEINE printed at the end of his travel book from 1827 Reisebilder: Zweiter Teil.  Under the title “Östliche Poeten” (easterly or oriental poets) the last Xenie says:

Von den Früchten, die sie aus dem Gartenhain von Schiras stehlen,
Essen sie zu viel, die Armen, und vomiren dann Ghaselen.


Of the fruits they steal from the gardens of Shiraz
they eat too much, the miserables, so they vomit Ghaselen

This was not nice. And PLATEN, who was something of a high maintainance bitch (even his cast-iron-loyal mother made remarks about his a tad too genialisch behaviour, that is surely not “genial” in the sense of cordially, all the opposite!) took this very personal. He attacked not only IMMERMANN but HEINE too – calling the latter “Synagogenstolz” using the whole range of antisemitic images including the “smell of garlic”. HEINE had conversed to (protestant) Christianity in 1825 and was not in the mood to accept anything aiming towards his religion. He had thought that the act of conversion would be enough, would protect him from antisemitic attacks. At the same time he was trying to reach a position as professor in Munich and understood this as attack on his plans and efforts to reach a secure bourgeois existence. So HEINE hit back in the third volume of his Reisebilder from 1830 with a lot of derogatory remarks about PLATENs homosexuality, kicking en passant some others in the groin like IFFLAND (Ger., Eng.). The Bavarian king Ludwig (the first one, Ger., Eng.) was not pleased and HEINE had to go to exile to Paris in 1831, no professorship for the baptised Judenbengel.
PLATEN was in Italy since 1826, and there he stayed for the rest of his life. He lived in Rome or Neapel, mostly alone, developing a small drinking problem. In 1835 he fled from the spreading cholera via Palermo to Syrakus, where he died. In the magazine tome I mentioned at the start of this dribble, I found an article by a man who had traveled with PLATEN in 1835, they parted only some days before PLATEN went to Sicily. The author mentions that PLATEN heavily used “Kalomel” to protect himself from the plague – mercury-chloride (Eng.). So chances are that PLATEN poisoned himself, preparing his death while running for his life. The whole thing is called the “Platen Affäre”, but I found no English article about it.

2 thoughts on “There Are No Winners in the History of German Literature

  1. And you can bed on it, Graf von LX: Platen liked it too!
    I think his last weeks would make a great film. The entries in his diary end three weeks before his death, nothing indicates that he died from cholera.
    The old count Landolina burried him on his estate and later had contact with Platen’s mother, who was living in Ansbach pretty poorly. The old count finally brought a big lump of Carrara marmor to the place and built a decent memorial for the poet he had only known for his last weeks on earth. In a letter to Platen’s mother he describes that a year after her son’s death a foreigner visited the grave, wept and left flowers. Ah, romantic, isn’t it?!

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