Tag: intellectuals

Dis’n Dat / Diss unn’ Dat

What is time ?

“Sed quid tempus est ? cuius cum nihil unquam sit, omnia tamen in illo sunt et semper omnibus assistit. Illud idem omnia generat et occidit, auctor vitae ac mortis. Vtque ilius exspectatio longissima, ita semper memoria brevissima. Cumque nos semper comitetur, nunquam ipsum tamen agnoscimus. Nec cum eius tanta sit copia, reparatio tamen ulla conceditur : unde fit, ut nullius alterius rei iactura sit maior et vilior.”

But what is time ? Nothing is immanent in it (“nichts ist ihr zu eigen”), but all things are in it and it is always with all things. It creates all and kills, it is the author of life and death. And as its expectation is the longest, so is its memory the shortest. And if it is always in our company, we will never learn to know it. And if there is so much of it, any moment is irrecoverable, so the loss of time is more important and more common than any other loss that can incur.

I cite Mr CARDANUS (Ger., Eng.), from his work De Subtilitate, (see here, page 523 = image 553, the paragraph starts with Contraria ratione tempus in somno contrahitur …) as I found it in the biography of this Renaissance disciple written by Mr Anthony GRAFTON (Ger., Eng.) on page 9, note 1 – ha ! CARDANUS btw is the first who mentions the trick called “Blow Book” (Eng.), for all you book lovers. And GRAFTON wrote a history of the footnote, doubt that he got the Pour le Mérite (Ger., Eng.) for this, but who knows.
CARDAN, as far as I understand, also has no real answer. He describes his subject, tempus, but the innermost nature of it is for him as unreachable as it is for any other human being.
The wonder for me is that time “makes things big” and small. Looking back one often wonders how things actually went, were bearable, were good – how it concurred. The best thing about time is that we can not look ahead. I, at least, am grateful that there is no ability to look ahead ; to know that some things would happen, would have made me stumble, fall and give up. Things that burst into one’s life, come by surprise, as shocking as it may be, need & request urgent and immediate action, thus creating at least the illusion of non-passivity, non-subjection.
This was started by the very Mistress’ book report for July & August, in which she mentions But What If We’re Wrong ? Thinking About The Present As If It Were the Past by “Chuck” KLOSTERMANN (link, Ger., Eng.) (astoundingly boyish looks for a forty-something, seemingly a Berufsjugendlicher – yes, the “end of knowledge”-thing still bugs me), nevertheless an interesting point of view on life & all, on history.
I should be writing a text right now. But feel hungry. So it is time to go and pre-heat the oven for the pizza Diavolo I bought yesterday. Yes, let’s do this devilish thing now. This is NOT “procrastination”. Just a little dawdling, maybe.



Some years before his death GOLDBACH had his testament written. He appointed as his principal heir the librarian Gottfried BOCK. This, and the fact that BOCK was a regular visitor at his house had some eyebrows raised, simply because of the large social distance between the humble “consiliarius et bibliothecae praefectus” BOCK and Geheimrat GOLDBACH. Some years earlier he had made dispositions for his burial – he had planned a very modest and sober ceremony without the usual pomp funèbre. When he finally died on 20th of November (or 1st of December, depends on what calendar is used) his last will was presented to the czarina (the great Catherina, Ger., Eng.) – she wrote her “placet” on it with her own hand only two days later. Finally he was buried with all the usual effort and extravagance owed to his status, his position at the court. All his papers – diaries, notes, letters – were sealed by the ministry of foreign affairs and carefully archived.
GOLDBACH was a very discreet man, we know not much about his personal life. In his diaries he carefully noted whom he met where and when (with the notable exception of Gottfried, who is not mentioned), but he rarely ever gives the topic of the conversation – he is often described as a very charming conversational partner, he is clearly a man of the spoken word. But he also uses the medium of the time extensively, letters.
Christian GOLDBACH (Ger., Eng.) is born in Königsberg on the 18th of March 1690. We know that he has one brother, Heinrich, with whom he studies in Leipzig in 1711. In this year he meets Christian WOLFF & G.W. LEIBNIZ – and what is more important, he keeps the contact with these scholars for the next years to come. And not only with these two – in fact GOLDBACH establishes a network of communication all over Europe that mirrors his wide range of interests from modern natural sciences to philology, from architecture via music to mathematics. He takes care to come into contact with the leading men of the day. From spring 1712 until December 1714 GOLDBACH is traveling Europe, crisscrossing the European Gelehrtenrepublik. Seemingly by the way he defends a dissertation at the university of Groningen (August 1712) and gets a licentia docendi juris ; when he gets back to Berlin in winter 1714 he becomes a Prussian Hofrat, before he retreats to Königsberg.
Some years later he comes back to Berlin (August 1718) and then travels to the North (Stockholm, Kopenhagen) before he is in Vienna – all in all he is on the road until April 1724, for more than five years. The suspicion is allowed that he somehow is involved in Prussian foreign politics, now not scholars are his main conversational partners, but diplomats. He stays not for long in Berlin 1724/25 – there is a new project on the horizon, the foundation of a Russian academy of sciences in St. Petersburg (Ger., Eng.). He arrives in St.Petersburg in August 1725 & starts his work as secretary of this institution in September. As I understand he will not leave Russia any more. Two years later, 1727, he becomes the head teacher of the heir to the throne Petr Alekseevic (Ger., Eng.), who sadly dies only fourteen years of age in January 1730. GOLDBACH holds different ranks in the court hierarchy, and in 1744 becomes officially a member of the council for foreign affairs. He dies 1764 in St.Petersburg.
Through the last 22 years of his life, which he spent in the service of the council of foreign affairs, he traveled between Moskau and St.Petersburg, but he clearly favoured the latter city. GOLDBACH was responsible for the cipher-service, and he was successful. In June 1744 the Russians deciphered a letter of the French envoy that contained some not very nice remarks about the czarina – that is Elisabeth (Ger., Eng.). In this year GOLDBACH received as a special gift not only one, but two golden tobacco “tins”, next year the personal nobility, and in 1746 the czarina gave him a manor – he never visited it, the rent brought him 1400 Rubel a year, as he wrote in a letter to EULER. His regular annual income was 1500 roubles.
He tries to keep out of the intrigues at court as good as he can, always keeps contact with the academy he helped to found, and stays discreet. His successful work in the cipher departement is continued by his successor Franz ÆPINUS (Ger., Eng.) (1724-1802), who in some respects repeats GOLDBACHs journey through life : He is also a member of the academy, he teaches the heir to the throne, and he stays unmarried.

I used for this scribble the following book :
Juskevic, Adolf P. ; Kopelevic, Judith Kh. : Christian Goldbach. 1690-1764. Aus dem Russischen übersetzt von Annerose und Walter Purkert, Basel Boston Berlin 1994 (Vita mathematica 8). First Moskva 1983. Strangely enough this title is not mentioned among the literature in the German wikipedia-article.

Interesting Women : Else von Richthofen

Let us assume that you are a sociologist with an interest in the history of your science. Then you surely have heard the name Max WEBER (1864-1920) (Ger., Eng., SEP). And you surely know that he has a younger brother Alfred (1868-1958) (Ger., Eng.), who is also a sociologist, occasional collaborator and critic of his brother, and there is Marianne WEBER (1870-1954) (Ger., Eng.), the wife of Max. And Else ?
Else is the “woman between” them *, short-time mistress of Max, long-time living partner of Alfred, and a bit more.

Elisabeth Frieda Amélie Sophie Freiin von RICHTHOFEN (1874-1973) (Ger., Eng.) had a sister, Frieda (1879-1956) (Ger., Eng.), who later became the wife of D.H. (“ram-bam”) LAWRENCE. Yes, I invented the “ram-bam”.
Of course they were related to Manfred, the “Red Baron”, but very distantly. Else was the oldest of the Richthofen-sisters. The usual life script for a young noble lady of the late 19th century would be : Get married, become pregnant, and do as your husband tells you. Getting married would involve an endowment – sadly daddy Richthofen (Friedrich Ernst Emil Ludwig Freiherr Praetorius von RICHTHOFEN, 1844–1915) was not only a heavy gambler, but also a lady’s man : One of his mistresses gave birth to his son in 1886 – there went the sisters’ marriage portion.
Nevertheless Else received a good education. She learned early that she would need a material basis of her own. So she becomes a teacher (examination 1891) – and with this first degree, and here she leaves the official trail, “listens” at the university of Heidelberg – matriculation for women is not yet allowed – National Economics, represented by WEBER. He recommends her to Gustav (von) SCHMOLLER (1838-1917) (Ger., Eng.) in Berlin, where she again “listens” for three semesters, and makes contacts that will shape her future life. In the house of WEBER’s mother she meets Alfred WEBER and Edgar JAFFÉ, her later living partner and her husband. Since the 1890s she is good friends with Marianne WEBER – until the end of their lives, and over all that is there to come.
She takes her doctoral degree in Heidelberg in 1900 (WEBER presiding) and then becomes the first academic “Betriebsinspektorin” in Germany. Marianne and Alice SALOMON (Ger., Eng.) introduce her into the women’s movement of the day (what some modern feminists like to describe as “the first wave”, what I personally find pretty silly, because this expression has only military connotations for me).
Her life script seems to be clear : Following the ideal of celibate social worker or female doctor, within the bourgeois social movement of the time, doing professional work, earning her own money, but – as already mentioned – no family, id est no man, no sex, no children is part of this accepted idealistic idea, “motherliness as profession” / Mütterlichkeit als Beruf  (see this, German only, sorry).
Else does not accept this.
In 1902 she marries Edgar JAFFÉ (1866-1921) (Ger., NDB) – a very interesting man who deserves a biography of his own imho. Edgar is not only a businessman & strikingly rich, but very interested and ambitious in the scientific field. He becomes editor of the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, together with Max WEBER and Werner SOMBART (Ger., Eng.) – he has bought the whole thing.
Else, as impoverished noble woman, follows an older blueprint, she marries the money and returns to an aristocratic lifestyle. She publishes a bit in the journal, and dutifully gives birth to three legal children between 1903 and 1909, and to one illegal son Peter (1907-1915), fathered by Otto GROSS (1877-1920) (Ger., Eng.).
Edgar adopted the child. She and Edgar stay married until his death in April 1921, albeit separated since 1911. Edgar follows his own scientific and academic path, holds a high position in the economic administration of the Reich through WWI, and, interestingly, becomes secretary of finances under Kurt EISNER (Ger., Eng.), during the Münchner Räterepublik 1918/1919 (Ger.). He barely survives the massacres of the oh-so-noble Freikorps (Ger., Eng.). Since 1900 his house in Schwabing (Ger., Eng.) was a centre of the Bohème – not the Berlin of Wilhelm was the place to be around 1900, München leuchtet before the Great War, and is replaced by Weimar Berlin after 1919.
Otto GROSS is a case of his own – in 1907 not only his mistress Else gives birth to a son Peter, but his legal wife too, and in 1908 his second mistress also comes down with a healthy child. Given his troubles with drugs – he starts to use cocaine in 1900 when he works as doctor on a passenger liner, and remember : Before WWI heroin was used as cure for cocaine addiction – his unsteady life and a lot of troubles, it is amazing that he can keep up writing & working. His case is tragic in as much, as FREUD absolutely dismissed some of his maverick disciple’s ideas and reacted with a kind of damnatio memoriae – father Sigmund kills son Otto – that astoundingly also worked for Otto’s political writings : GROSS was only re-discovered in the 1970s !
Friends found his body in a ramshackle backyard in Berlin, he died in a hospital in April 1920. BTW in the affaire with GROSS Else’s rival was not Otto’s wife, but her own sister Frieda. They had tumultuous rows.
Else started a relationship with Alfred WEBER around 1909/1910 – the relation between the brothers suffered a bit from this. Else would in her long life never speak about her relation with Max WEBER that took place in November 1918, out of respect for her close friend Marianne. When WEBER lay dying from pneumonia in Munich (June 1920) – another victim of the Spanish flu – both women were there and cared for him.
In spring 1921 only the two women, and Alfred WEBER, are left. Marianne takes care of the writings of her husband and stays active in the women’s movement. Else goes with Alfred back to Heidelberg, helps with his work, and takes care of his legacy after his death in 1958. They are all buried in Heidelberg Bergfriedhof.
Else Freiin von Richthofen, verwitwete Jaffé, war sicherlich eine interessante Frau.

* DEMM, Eberhard [Ger.]: Else Jaffé-von Richthofen. Erfülltes Leben zwischen Max und Alfred Weber, Düsseldorf 2014, Rezension by R. Aldenhoff-Hübinger, from which I take a lot.

M. Arouet

Sorry, long tirade. It’s just about a fella from the 18th century.

François-Marie AROUET was born in 1694 and named after his father, a notary and royal councillor, in Paris. His mother from a Poitou (Ger., Eng.) noble family died when he was ten (or seven) years old. François, highly gifted and precocious, received a good education together with boys of leading French families at the gymnasium Louis le Grand (Ger., Eng.), run by Jesuits. According to the wishes of his father he started to study law at the Sorbonne (Ger., Eng.), with 17, but he spent more time in literary salons of noble ladies and at the “Temple”, a club of libertines and masons. His wit and ability for satire & slander made him welcome there, and feared. Father had sent the nineteen year old as Page (Ger., Eng.) to the French envoy at The Hague, but a love affaire put an end to this and he was brought back to Paris, under guard, only three months later.
When old Louis XIV. (Ger., Eng.) died in 1715 Philipp Duke of Orléans (Ger., Eng.) took over as regent for the still under age Louis XV. Philipp, a son of Liselotte, was a pleasure-loving man, to say the least, the whole air of public life & society changed, it became more liberal. Generally the Regent liked the slandering / Lästereien of M. AROUET, but when things became a bit too intimate & personal he had the blossoming homme des lettres first banned from Paris, and, in 1717, arrested in the Bastille (Ger., Eng.) : no lawsuit, no writing permitted, one year. But AROUET was allowed to read and he noted on the sides of his read verses of his first tragedy, Œedip – on stage in the Comedie Française (Ger., Eng.) half a year after our author came out of the can, 25 evenings. The Regent liked it lots, the theme of son’s love to mother ; let’s not look too close into his relation to his daughter. Nevertheless he threw out an honorarium for AROUET, 1.200 livres annually, the basis for his later not so miniscule wealth.
On the billet for Œedip our author surfaced for the first time under the name he would use for the rest of his life – the 25-year-old AROUET had turned into M. VOLTAIRE (Ger., Eng.).

The next years were pretty good for VOLTAIRE. He had arrived, moved in the highest circles of the French society, his plays came out in the Comedie. He did successful speculations, and wrote his Henriade, about le bon roi Henry IV. (Ger., Eng.), glorifying the kings tolerance for non-catholics. It was printed in The Netherlands, smuggled into Paris, sold under the table, the censors had not approved. An argument with a member of the noble ROHAN-family ended this seemingly easy times. ROHAN had VOLTAIRE battered by his servants, who in turn sought satisfaction by duel. In the end the writer had another stint in the Bastille. He was allowed out but had to emigrate and was banned from France. The commander of the prison brought him to Calais.

The years from 1726 to 1729 were spent in London, he learned English fluently, was impressed when he watched NEWTONs funeral, the philosophy of LOCKE (Ger., Eng.) and Francis BACON (Ger., Eng.) opened new horizons. He was allowed to dedicate his Henriade in English translation to the Queen, George II. signed for the luxury edition – when he finally was allowed back into France in 1729, and later into Paris, he returned as a wealthy man : “Voltaire financier”.
1730 brought a grievous blow, his friend the actress Adrienne LECOUVREUR (Ger., Eng., Fr.) who had taken many leading roles in his plays, died after a severe illness in his arms. She was denied an honourable burial by the church and was hastily buried in the knacker’s yard.
VOLTAIRE was appalled. He wrote a requiem for her, in which he inculpated the “cruel men who denied a burial to her who’d had altars erected in Greece.”
His “Philosophical Letters” and his “Notes to Pascal” were condemned by the parliament to public burning by the hangman. A poem (“Le Mondain”) was badly received, this time the printer had to go to the Bastille. VOLTAIRE evaded the impending arrest by a hasty retreat to Cirey in Lothringen, where his mistress, Marquise Émilie de CHÂTELET (Ger., Eng., SEP), possessed a small manor.

Seemingly good years. They never married, both wrote. She was especially interested in mathematics and physics and translated NEWTONs writings from English – that VOLTAIRE had tought her – into French ; he wrote Elements of Newton’s Philosophy, a text that popularized the new scientific thinking.
Here in Cirey VOLTAIRE received the first letter from a young man in Prussia called Friedrich (still Prince in 1736). Only three months after the latter became king in 1740 both met in Kleve, and the king gave the philosopher a manuscript to correct, his “Antimachiavell” (Ger., Eng.). The invitations to Berlin were friendly denied, VOLTAIRE did not want to leave la Marquise.

The mid-1740s saw a kind of reconciliation between Versailles and VOLTAIRE. His drama “Mahomet” was kindly received – kind of, some understood it well as attack on Rome, he even had to write to the Pope, and Benedict XIV. (Ger., Eng.) answered diplomatically that he “had read the tragedy with great joy”. Anyway, when the Dauphin had his wedding a play by VOLTAIRE (“The Princess of Navarra”) went over the ramp, music by RAMEAU, he was accepted back. He was appointed as the king’s historiographer, became a member of the Academie Française, and yes the Royal Society of London (and Edinburgh) and the Petersburg Academie also invited him.
He knew that all this was standing on shaky grounds.

Mon Henri quartre et ma Zaïre
Et mon americane Alzire
Ne m’ont valu jamais un seul regard du Roi;
J’eus beaucoup d’ennimies avec très peu de gloire;
Les honneurs et les biens pleuvent enfin sur moi,
Pour une farce de la foire.

When Émilie died in 1750 VOLTAIRE finally gave in to Friedrichs kind letters and went to Potsdam. He joined the king’s inner circle, helped to educate the young people at the court (“I’m not the king’s chamberlain, I’m his artigrapher” he wrote to his niece Marie-Luise DENIS, (Eng.) a daughter of his late sister, who, early widowed, cared for his household), and finished a pretty dangerous book, “Le Sermon des Cinquantes“, what he also read to the king and his fellows.
The first time in Berlin was nice, but the two were too similar, both highly gifted, full of esprit & wit, prone to satire, persiflage, sarcasm, & intrigue. VOLTAIRE showed not his best sides, Friedrich was touchy when he felt his royalty ridiculed – 1753 the gig was over. A nasty scene in Frankfurt am Main followed, when the king had the philosopher arrested – he demanded a book back, ha!
Paris was out of reach, Louis XV. did not allow him back, a nice gesture towards Friedrich. VOLTAIRE decided to settle in Geneva, over-pious sure, but it promised a bit more freedom of expression than oh so catholic France. 1754, at sixty, he purchased a manor with a large garden and called it Les Délices. Later, just to be safe, he purchased two baronies on the French side of the lake, Tournay and Ferney. He turned the latter into a kind of Mustergut, model manorial economy. With good success. He never used the title that came with the ground. His niece run the household, he organised the economy – and wrote. Especially articles for the great encyclopedie – they were later edited without his permission, and of course condemned by the French parliament and publicly burned by the Genevian hangman. Kept them busy, eh grouchy ?

VOLTAIRE had become an European institution and people came to see him, his correspondence (20.000 existing letters) was even for the letter-happy 18th century extensive, and he committed himself to cases of injustice, think of the case CALAS, the case of the SIRVEN-family, even shortly before his death he wrote a petition to the king in the interest of farmers of Burgundy. In this time in Ferney falls new contact with ROUSSEAU (Ger., Eng.) – and this imploded totally.
VOLTAIRE abhorred ROUSSEAUs “Back to Nature !” (“Retournons à la Nature!”), for him this was the total opposite of progress by ratio and education, of humanism and enlightenment – and he openly – and scornful – told M. ROUSSEAU. Who in turn denounced VOLTAIRE as author of the above mentioned “Sermon” from 1749/50 ; not very nice, more anger.

The last act began 1778. The 83-year-old man said Adieu to Ferney and went back to Paris, technically still banned, but the authorities looked in another direction. The last 110 days of his live were a triumph, a triumph that cost his last energy. Hie died on the evening of the 30th of May 1778. The priest of Saint Sulpice tried to bring back the nullifidian in the lap of holy mother church, but he refused – finally telling the Jesuit at his bed bluntly “Let me die in peace !”, of course the arch-bishop of Paris denied a Christian burial. Two of his nephews & friends sat the dead body in a coach and brought him to the abbey of Sellières (Fr., Ger.) near Troyes, where he was interred on the area of the abbey.
Eleven years after VOLTAIREs death the Revolution blew away the monarchy, and the church as dominating institution. At his 13th death-day his coffin was brought back to Paris and entombed into the Pantheon.
It’s a false rumour, but a poetic one, that another 23 years or so later, after the victory of the Restoration, ultra-conservative monarchistic  & catholic villains broke the sarcophaguses of VOLTAIRE and ROSSEAU and threw the mortal remains of the two philosophical antipodes into a hole somewhere on wasteland near the Seine, not to be found again.
In 1897 they looked, and he was till there.

I used:
BICKEL, Otto: Aufklärer, Agnostiker, Atheisten. Zum 75 Geburtstag von Otto BICKEL am 24. September 1982 [FS BICKEL 1982],  herausgegeben von Gerhard SZECZESNY. o.O. [München] 1982, S.104-113