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Of gifts, gallantries, and horace: Luise Kulmus (Gottsched) in her early letters.

From the beginning of her relationship with Johann Christoph Gottsched, Luise Kulmus (later Luise Gottsched) gave her suitor the benefit of her views on morality and literature. In this article I delineate the difference between their views by interpreting performative acts of giving as represented in her early letters (1730-1735). J.C. Gottsched emerges in this characterization as a transitional figure with strong cultural and literary ties to the gallant culture of the late seventeenth century, while Luise Kulmus emerges as more thoroughly embodying new values of an enlightened middle class and--especially in her nuptial translations of Horace--even anticipating those of the Empfindsamkeit. (KRG)

As a performative act, giving is a bearer of cultural meaning. The execution of such acts is authorized by law and by custom, but there is usually room for individual performance. The federal government, for instance, restricts intergenerational giving (estate taxes) and encourages charitable giving (tax exemptions), thereby indicating its minimal concerns for an equitable sharing of wealth. It also stipulates what constitutes charity. By custom our culture celebrates with gifts the anniversaries of certain events and not others (Christmas, but not Independence Day). These laws and customs are not universal. They are not even uniform throughout an entire culture or stable over time. In the United States silver and golden wedding anniversaries are not universally celebrated with gifts of silver and gold. The custom that the family of the bride "gives" the wedding is no longer universally practiced, although emotions about the practice may still be strong. Within any culture there is room for historical change and individual application of customs. This means there is also room for cultural interpretation of the practices of gift giving.

There may be no aspect of European culture for which gift giving is more regulated by custom (and even law) than courtship and marriage. These cultural events have sometimes been described as business transactions, sometimes as slavery and prostitution. Much of the symbolism surrounding them, however, pertains to the giving of gifts. Traditionally the bride's family gives the groom a gift when he takes their daughter. The father of the bride gives the bride away. One speaks of giving one's hand in marriage (or of asking for it), or of giving one's heart. These concepts are part of German as well as Anglo-Saxon custom. When gifts may be accepted and when they should be offered are also matters of concern. Similarly the nature of actual gifts: their seemliness, whether they indicate a miserly or extravagant suitor, whether they adequately express a sentiment or status. What gifts "say" about the giver, the recipient, or the relationship is open to cultural interpretation.

The practice of giving is a major theme in the letters Luise Kulmus wrote to Johann Christoph Gottsched during their courtship (1730-1735), and it is this I propose to investigate here. (1) Luise Gottsched became the most important German woman author of the early modern period, yet traditional scholarship has largely failed to characterize her as an independent personality. Only recently have scholars become more interested in this task, and to date most assertions to this effect have been made in articles with a different focus. (2) It is my intention to address this issue directly. The task itself is made difficult by public claims of both Gottscheds that their views on literature aspired to universality and that she "helped" him. In fact, the letters I will discuss--her courtship letters--have provided one source for the view of Luise Gottsched as subservient to her husband.

New readings of these letters were difficult until their recent 1999 republication, although there were signs that scholars had begun to recognize Luise Gottsched's "rebelliousness" (Aufmupfigkeit, Pailer 51). Simultaneously, however, the problematic nature of the source material came to light. In 1998 Gaby Pailer began the discussion of the constructed nature of the texts that have traditionally constituted "primary" source material for the biography of Luise Gottsched: her husband's biography of her and Dorothea Henriette von Runckel's edition of her letters. Even more grave was the revelation in 1998 by Magdalene Heuser of the degree to which these letters had been edited in their "original" publication of 1771-1772 ("Neuedition"). Although none of the courtship letters has survived in manuscript form, the few letters from a later period that can be compared with manuscript versions indicate radical incursions into the language of the published letters, by whom is unclear. (3) Overall, however, the published letters do reflect the general tendency of the few extant manuscript versions. This situation makes it very difficult, if not impossible to interpret the letters at their linguistic level.

Susanne Kord was the first to address this difficulty directly. She attempted to resolve it by interpreting the letters of the 1771-1772 edition as texts jointly written by Luise Gottsched and their editor, Runckel (Little Detours). In actuality Kord denies Kulmus authorship of the letters under discussion because she (Kord) cannot believe she meant them: "[T]he trite imagery she [Kulmus] employs [is] too evocative of the worst contemporary cliches to be taken entirely seriously" (51). In this capricious interpretation Kulmus's desire to mourn the deaths of her father and her mother, to recuperate from a near fatal illness, and to recover from the bombing of Danzig are all discounted as mere "rhetoric of the Enlightenment" and efforts to "sabotage the wedding as long as humanly possible" (48). In the end, this attempt to distance Kulmus from the philosophy of the early Enlightenment (and from her religious beliefs) actually does her a great disservice. It not only wrongly portrays her as disingenuous and desperate, it miscalculates her cultural significance.

A comparison of these early letters with poems Kulmus wrote during the same period would amply illustrate her ties to the religious and philosophical views of the early Enlightenment. The following interpretation, however, revisits the courtship letters in an effort to read her relationship to her suitor through the performative acts of giving as they are represented there. It is not based primarily on the language of Luise Kulmus's letters (although obviously that cannot be ignored), but rather on the gestures and actions described. This means that I accept the language as representing a gesture or performative act in the broadest way, but do not generally interpret the language itself.

I propose that from the very beginning of their courtship Luise Kulmus gave her suitor the benefit of her views on morality and literature and that these not only differed significantly from his, they also anticipated future cultural developments. That she did this without directly contradicting him is a tactic in which women have long been obliged to engage. Such behavior is not duplicitous, it is merely subtle. In the end, despite his generosity and to his own detriment, Gottsched rejected a significant portion of his fiancee's gifts. Luise Gottsched never doubted that this was his prerogative and never publicly contradicted him. Indeed she always defended her husband in the public arena. Still, with a closer understanding of the young Luise Kulmus, we will have a solid basis for further re-investigation of her entire oeuvre: translations, prose, journalism, and poetry, as well as her drama. It may even prove to be the case that her interests influenced the direction of the couple's journalistic enterprises. Luise Gottsched deserves to be seen in the full richness of her own forceful personality.

Courtship and Marriage Negotiations

To outward appearances, the courtship of Luise Adelgunde Victorie Kulmus by Johann Christoph Gottsched was anything but typical of the age. Their relationship was born of a mutual interest in poetry and nurtured throughout a six-year correspondence by shared philosophical interests. Before investigating such unusual aspects of their courtship, however, I would like to recount its history and discuss more conventional aspects of their gift giving.

In 1727, while looking for poets to include in an anthology of Prussian poetry, the young Leipzig scholar's attention had been drawn to the fourteen-year-old Danzig resident by a former teacher who was visiting Leipzig. Gottsched wrote requesting to see her poetic efforts. On the basis of correspondence with her family and the poems she sent him (with her father's permission and his request that Gottsched not publish her name), he was moved to visit Danzig while on a trip north to visit his parents in June 1729. After the visit he received permission to write the now sixteen-year-old. (4) If or to what extent the parents may have overseen the correspondence, especially during the first two years before he asked to marry her, is not known.

In 1731 Kulmus's father, physician to the Court of the King of Poland in Danzig Dr. Johann Georg Kulmus, died. Gottsched, son of a Prussian pastor of meager means, proposed. Catharina Dorothea Kulmus, daughter of a wealthy Danzig merchant, permitted her daughter to choose whom she would marry, but set certain, unrecorded conditions pertaining to time and circumstance (15 February 1733). (5) Presumably these related to the period of mourning for her father and to Gottsched's successful search for a tenured professorship (Ordinarius). They insisted on this despite changes in their own fortune, for when her father's estate was investigated the family discovered that it had lost its wealth. Even so, they could still afford to send the son to university in Leipzig, and they were in no hurry to give their daughter to a distant professor with no inheritance or guaranteed income. (6) (He had been Professor der Poesie extraordinarius since 1730, but this appointment carried no regular salary.) Gottsched was duly informed of the changed financial status of the Kulmus family--and the altered dowry--but persisted in his suit for her hand in marriage.

The ambiguous status of his relationship to Kulmus--promised, but not engaged--eventually infuriated Gottsched. The most graphic representation of this difficult situation is his attempt to exchange portraits with her. In the early modern period, when marriages might be transacted over long distances or when the betrothed was not present, portraits sometimes played an important role in courtship. The possession of a woman's portrait signified the virtual, if not actual possession of the woman herself. One contemporary, Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, noted various reasons a woman might not want a man to have her portrait: it could fall into someone else's hands, and that person might show it around town; even the most respectable recipient might get drunk and show it in a tavern; he might prove fickle in his love; or he might lose it (29-31).

When Gottsched proposed in 1731, he asked if Kulmus would like a portrait of him. She responded that she would, and the portrait was duly delivered. However, when he asked for her portrait in return, she equivocated and did not send him one until the engagement became official in 1734. Kulmus's reticence to give her portrait was, at the least, not out of tune with the prevailing morality. In the end, the portrait was a minor source of irritation; more important was her final consent. As with the portrait, however, Kulmus and her family were quite exact. They withheld the gift both of her portrait and of her hand in marriage until his situation was confirmed. Then, in accordance with local custom, he was permitted to deliver a formal proposal, which he did by proxy (3 February 1734). Only at this point was their engagement official.

There are indications that the Kulmus family sought a more advantageous match for their daughter, but that within the family she pressed the case for Gottsched. Gottsched was an impatient suitor and sometimes desired more frequent letters from his beloved, but there was one occasion on which her family commanded her to write fewer letters (16 January 1733). Possibly this was related to the prospects of a different suitor. How or exactly when this matter was resolved is not clear, but it was shortly after this time that Gottsched presented Kulmus a "little comedy" with a hero named "Erast" [sic]. Most likely this was Marivaux's comedy in one act, L'Ecole des meres, which had appeared in 1732. (7) In the play the timid heroine, Angelique, loves Erast and has promised to marry him, but her mother, who had schooled her in absolute obedience, does not know this and attempts to engage her to an older, wealthier man. In the end the heroine confronts her mother with her desire to wed the patient Erast. The mother learns to accept her daughter's independence and consents. Kulmus responded to this gift: "My answer to your question about this is that I prefer a single Erast [sic] to all obliging men" (11 November 1733). This personal response suggests that Gottsched had sent it to her with a personal message.

If we look beyond the letters, we find that Kulmus had already given her uncle (and guardian) a poem on his name day in 1732 (Kleinere Gedichte 103-04). In it she thanks him for his paternal kindness since her father's death. She tells him she does not seek her happiness in "ambition, greed and pleasure." They are unfortunate who forget their desires for the sake of "gold and greed" (104). He knows where she seeks hers. From these gestures--Gottsched's gift to her and hers to her uncle--I infer that Kulmus became more active within her family on behalf of Gottsched's suit. Language in the letters supports this interpretation:
   You are right, I nearly died. The laments inspired by your friendship for
   me awoke me from my lifelessness. But what an injustice you do me in your
   previous letter [about the ban on her letter-writing, K.G.] if you take for
   the expression of my will what I owe to the mandate of my relatives? (15
   February 1733).

Not until New Year 1734 did Gottsched secure a position as Professor of Metaphysics with tenure, (8) but the wedding still had to be postponed. By March 1734 the War of Polish Succession had broken out, and Danzig had come under siege. From the end of April until the end of June 4,430 bombs fell on the city, killing or wounding 1,500 people and damaging 1,899 buildings (Losching I: 156). The Kulmus house was bombed, but its inhabitants had moved to a nearby suburb. On the night of the most intense shelling (9-10 May) Catharina Dorothea Kulmus died of an unrelated illness and Luise Kulmus lay gravely ill. After the mail began again Kulmus asked her fiance to wait the expected period of mourning until they married. In the end Gottsched and Kulmus were married halfway through that period, in April 1735. Since she would still be in mourning for her mother, Kulmus wrote that she would wear black at her wedding (15 December 1734).

On 22 September 1734 Kulmus received a ring from Gottsched and for the first time signed her letter as his "betrothed bride and eternally faithful friend (Freundin)." One week later she sent him a ring she had had made. This exchange of rings was a milestone in their relationship and rendered the exchange of other presents not merely respectable, but even expected. Prior to their official engagement Kulmus had not liked to receive gifts from him. On 21 October 1734, however, she thanked him for a large package with many different items and acknowledged that he showered her daily with gifts. Now that he has given her his heart, however, she finds all these of lesser significance. The practice of bridegrooms lavishing attentions on their brides was one they both accepted. On 15 December 1734 Kulmus agreed to exchange gifts of sleepwear (probably as arranged wedding presents), but Gottsched soon broke their mutual pledge not to exchange Christmas gifts by sending her an elegant writing set. She expressed dismay and felt neglectful.

In Danzig, as in some other cities, there had long been a municipal Willkur, or ordinance for proper behavior. (9) Usually the provisions of such ordinances were not legally enforced, but they did represent official views about expected behavior. In 1732 the Danzig Willkur was reissued. There Kulmus might have read that daughters who married against the will of their parents could no longer be fully disowned and would only lose half or three-quarters of their inheritance. If this happened after the deaths of their parents, however, they could be jailed (Simson 138). These regulations also prescribed the number of guests, the nature of the bride's clothing, the kind of musicians, the kind of wedding repast, the time of the ceremony, and the time of dinner and dancing for wedding celebrations. They also prescribed the amount of money particular members of the wedding party were allowed to spend on gifts. Individual ordinances may not have been enforced, but they provided expectations for financial restraint on such occasions.

Kulmus wrote her fiance that she intended to economize on expenditures for their wedding. The planned expenditure of 100 thaler for eighteen guests was well within the modest category. In addition to the reasons she gave (her plans for a frugal household, expenses of their upcoming journey, the cost of establishing a home) there were surely several other factors affecting her decision. Probably family finances, municipal expectations (especially when many had just suffered losses in the bombing), and Kulmus's mourning all contributed to her desire to keep the wedding modest. To these must also be added a philosophical position that shunned ostentation and the possibility that her father had lost the family wealth through his extravagance. (10) Still, with this consideration we begin to enter the domain of philosophical differences between Gottsched and Kulmus. These had manifested themselves early in the correspondence in connection with gifts, for from the beginning of his courtship Gottsched had attempted to overwhelm Luise Kulmus with presents.

The Nature of Gifts

Before their wedding Kulmus and Gottsched had met just once, in Danzig for four weeks--the "few days" to which Gottsched referred (Gedichte 620-24). During the six intervening years all contact occurred through intermediaries and through the written word. (11) His prose letters have not survived, although some poetic epistles and occasional poems have. From her letters we learn that this gallant suitor lavished her with compliments, letters, and presents. As the female recipient of such courtly attentions, the enlightened daughter of a Danzig doctor gently but firmly attempted to guide the enthusiasm and quality of his giving. Appropriately, for a demure and respectable young woman, her own giving was restrained. However, not only do individual personalities emerge through the enactment of gift-giving customs, historical discussions of these practices are also evoked. Through their giving Gottsched and Kulmus position themselves in the context of a cultural debate about gallantry and virtue, about formalism and sincerity. In this section I will characterize them as representatives of these two, different positions. This explanation provides a context for my interpretation of one of Kulmus's most important gifts, her nuptial translations.

In the second letter of Runckel's edition of the correspondence, Kulmus implied that Gottsched's attentions had been gallant. She rejected a compliment by characterizing it as too grand for her. Since we lack the communication to which she referred, a quick glance at a poetic epistle he wrote her independently verifies a characterization of his attentions as gallant. In June 1729 Gottsched wrote, in the hyperbole of gallant poetry, that she had "conquered" him and that he was her "slave" (Gedichte II: 211). Later he also recalled that his attempt to steal a kiss had been met with a threatening glance (Gedichte II: 288). Attempted theft precludes giving.

Websters New International Dictionary tells us that in manners gallantry is "civility or polite attention to ladies; in a bad sense, attention or courtesy designed to win illicit favors from a female; freedom of principle or practice with respect to female virtue; intrigue." In the early eighteenth century gallantry was understood in much the same suspicious way, and Gottsched is usually credited with leading the struggle to overcome this mannered and formalistic behavior. Certainly he lampooned gallant behavior, including extravagant gift giving in Die vernunfftigen Tadlerinnen (1725-1726), that moral weekly of which he was the chief editor. There a fictional author decried vapid gallantries as dangerous to the moral health of German culture. "Iris" worried that empty flattery could seduce young women by appealing to their vanity and selfishness and painted comical images of gallants. Addressing the "preening windbags" (prahlerische Schwatzer) Iris opined, "You have flattered, bestowed, pleaded, sworn, fallen on your knee, and tried to capture that heart with a thousand tears; you have sent tender letters--probably also written in blood--and verses to your opponent, until you made her fall asleep" (I: 31). In the abstract, Gottsched opposed hyperbolic gallantries. Reality was another matter.

To characterize Gottsched's courtship language and gestures as gallant is to place him in the context of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century French culture and manners. While this does not accord easily with the traditional view of him as a critic of gallantry and a rationalistic taskmaster, it does accord well with his interest in seventeenth-century French rule poetics, which placed a high value on form. In the process of liberating Kulmus from her past representations, we may also need to modify our usual two-dimensional assessment of her husband and learn to see him more distinctly as a transitional figure.

Gottsched's gallant gifts did not please Kulmus. Throughout the entire courtship she reminds him not to give her compliments and other gifts that appeal to vanity or selfishness, vices she abhors (7 January 1731). We do not know what non-literary gifts he sent her, but her pleas for restraint continue until their wedding. Even after their official engagement, when it was more proper for the bridegroom to lavish his bride with items that flattered her vanity, Kulmus continued her efforts against ostentation. He must have responded favorably to her comment that after he had given her his heart, she found other presents less significant (21 October 1734). Only a little later we find her agreeing with him: "Most men try to win--or buy--the heart of their beloved with [presents]" (10 November 1734). Men, she asserts still later, often degrade women by encouraging vanity with their gifts. To their own shame women are still far too preoccupied with vain and selfish pursuits (15 December 1734). For Kulmus the gifts men give women can seduce their minds and souls as well as their bodies. Elsewhere she argues that extravagance before a wedding can establish unrealistic expectations for marital relations and even destroy domestic economies (27 December 1734).

Perhaps in order to soften the force of her admonitions, Kulmus repeatedly emphasized Gottsched's intangible gifts: his mentoring, his friendship, ultimately his heart and his love. On her birthday in 1733 she thanked him for his poetic greeting, and added: "The best present you have given me is to grant my request not to give me any. What I desire from Leipzig cannot be purchased at any trade fair" (11 April 1733). On the occasion of their formal betrothal she claimed that her heart had long been his: "May this gift still give you as much pleasure after many years as it delighted you at first" (3 February 1734). As we shall see, Kulmus's emphasis on these more intimate gifts formed an integral part of her philosophical view. If, in fact, her father's extravagance ruined the family financially, the force of personal experience may well have added extra motivation.

If Gottsched's gallantries met with little success, how amply was he rewarded for his gifts of books and his generous support for Kulmus's literary efforts! Early in their correspondence Kulmus expressed the desire that he mentor her in intellectual matters (20 September 1730), and Gottsched answered by sending her books, journals, and other printed matter for the next five years. Even in the early Enlightenment it was extremely unusual for a suitor to respond as generously to this request as did Gottsched. It was also an unusual request.

It is in the quality of these gifts of intellectual substance and especially his encouragement for her literary efforts that his gift giving becomes truly extraordinary. He sent her Voltaire's Brutus; a guide on letter writing; music by Bach, Weyrauch, and Hasse; a musical lexicon; Jean Terrasson's Sethos, Histoire ou vie tiree des monumens ...; Chris tian Ludwig Liscow's Lobrede auf den D. Philippi; a moral weekly called Der vernunftige Traumer; possibly Madeleine-Angelique Gomez's Le triomphe de l'eloquence; Karl Ludwig Pollnitz's Das galante Sachsen; and more, including most if not all of his own works. Kulmus mentions reading Die ersten Grunde der Weltweisheit, Sterbender Cato, Critische Beytrage, and his translation of Fontenelle. In addition he composed poetic epistles and occasional poems for her. These she welcomed, claiming they were the most pleasant of his gifts and the least expensive (16 August 1734). When he had a copy of her translation of Gomez bound for the Duchess of Curland, she was delighted (4 April 1735). She welcomed these substantial and thoughtful gifts. She repeatedly asked him to point out her mistakes and thanked him for his instruction: "I know no words to thank you for your thoughtfulness and your care for the growth of my knowledge and learning" (12 August 1733).

An eager pupil is the best reward for a teacher, and Kulmus responded with a hunger that surely enhanced Gottsched's desire to give. She devoured the books he sent her and responded to him with gratitude, but not passivity. In her literary tastes, as in her morality, Kulmus abhorred gallantry. When Gottsched attempted to flatter her ambition by suggesting Petrarch's Laura and Sappho as her equals, Kulmus rejected the compliment as gallantry, just as she rejected what she considered the overestimation of certain women writers like Christiane Mariane von Ziegler and Hedwig Sidonia Zaunemann (Goodman 225-52). For her there was but a single standard of literary judgment and she deemed these particular authors inferior. In addition, however, she objected in principle to the very genres in which they wrote--poetry (especially occasional poetry) and the novel (Ziegler translated a Scudery novel)--believing they expressed insincere or inappropriate emotions. Kulmus herself disliked writing poetry and only accommodated her fiance's requests for poetry under duress. Her distaste for novels, in particular those of France's "Sappho" Madeleine de Scudery, occasioned her rejections of that precieuse as a model for herself. Kulmus was absolutely rigorous in her desire for literary substance in the place of what she considered superficial and hypocritical exuberance of sentiment.

Far better suited to Kulmus's tastes and talents was the work of the Daciers. Along with Boileau and others they extolled the superiority of classical literature over contemporary French literature (which included the modern novel). Classical scholar Andre Dacier had married the daughter of his teacher, Tanneguy-LeFevre, who had trained her well. Together Anne and Andre Dacier translated Latin and Greek texts into French. Kulmus expressed envy at the pleasure Andre Dacier derived from his translation of Horace (20 October 1733). This uncharacteristic admission of her envy indicates her own desire to translate, and her suitor generously encouraged her. Still, she would not translate everything her mentor suggested. For instance, she would not translate a short novel of Scudery's, Les Bains de Thermopyles. Gottsched called her obstinate for this refusal, but her selection of a substitute, Gomez's Le Triomphe d'Eloquence, succeeded in appeasing him. And even Gottsched's poetic evocation of the shade of Anne Dacier could not convince her to publish her translation of La Fayette's La Princesse de Cleves. Luise Kulmus may have wanted to translate, but she adhered to her own principles.

During the time of their courtship Kulmus translated or adapted four significant works: Anne-Therese Lambert's Reflexions nouvelles sur les femmes, Guillaume-Hyacinthe Bougeant's La Femme Docteur ou la Theologie Janseniste tombe en Quenouille, Madeleine-Angelique Gomez's Le triomphe de l'Eloquence, and Joseph Addison's Cato. These were gifts, not from her needle (work she detested) but from her pen. Gottsched had sent her the texts by Lambert and Bougeant. If he did not send her Gomez's text, he made her aware of it, and while she may well have become aware of Addison's Cato through Gottsched's tragedy Sterbender Cato, it is equally possible that she came across this text on her own. Gottsched's encouragement was also a gift. He recommended the translation of Lambert (the others appear to have been the result of her own selection) and with the exception of the Lambert text that first appeared in 1731, he arranged for the publication of all of these texts after they were married, in 1735 and 1736. Two of the latter bore her married name.

Kulmus's translations were gifts of her talent, skill, and understanding. The Lambert translation illustrates how productive this exchange could be, indeed might have continued to be. Among the first books Gottsched sent Kulmus were three by Fenelon, Fontenelle, and Lambert. Probably they were the popular ones broadly dealing with the education of women: Fenelon's Education des Filles (1687), Fontenelle's Gesprache von Mehr als einer Welt zwischen einem Frauenzimmer und einem Gelehrten (1686; German 1726), and Lambert's Reflexions nouvelles sur les femmes (1727). This gift met with a warm response. That she preferred Lambert, however, is illustrative of the early concern she shared with that author that women learn to respect themselves and to uphold the moral values they expect of men before they concern themselves with learned matters.

More pointedly, her translation of Lambert provides a pendant to Gottsched's translation (1726) of Fontenelle's simplified version of learned material for the edification of women. Kulmus preferred women to acquire personal substance rather than the showy trappings of superficial knowledge. She abhorred the gallant standard for knowledge by which any woman with the meanest schooling became a Minerva. Thus, from the very beginning of Gottsched's supposed mentorship of Kulmus, we find her not merely voicing, but performing a different, more modern opinion. This act is best understood in the context of the debate over virtue and substance as opposed to form and superficiality. Since he suggested she translate it, was responsible for overseeing the publication of her translation, and later boasted about its quality, we can assert that he welcomed this gesture, her gift to him of a different voice. If only he had remained as receptive!

Kulmus's Nuptial Translations

Kulmus had lost her dowry, or at least a significant portion of it. Just how much she lost we do not know. The other gift her family had given her, the intangible one of education, was still at her disposal. And she possessed her own talent. Craftspeople often trained their children, boys and girls, in the family craft. It was expected that girls would marry within their craft and bring their skills with them into the marriage. In these marriages young women sometimes brought as dowries equipment for use in that craft. Daughters of Saxon weavers, for instance, brought looms into a marriage, and these remained the property of the wife (Quartaert). These wives supported the family enterprise at a highly skilled, but generally unrecognized level. Kulmus brought learned skills into her marriage. Whether she considered these her dowry, we cannot determine.

For the arrival of her fiance in Danzig on the occasion of their marriage, Kulmus promised to present him with a gift of her excerpts from works by Abbadie, Addison, Steele, Bellegarde, la Bruyere, St. Evremond, Seneca, Horace, and others. She hoped he would thereby become better acquainted with her taste and her preoccupations (10 January 1735). Unfortunately we do not possess this collection. We do have a more personal and arguably more valuable gift in the form of translations she sent him just prior to their wedding. These are translations of two articles from the journal Le Glaneur, and seven odes by Horace. (12) Both, she states expressly, represent her taste ("[waren] nach meinem Geschmack"), and when she sent them to Gottsched, she wrote, "In all other presents the artist's hand has been at work, but this one is the result of my work, which I trust will please you" (24 January 1735). They constitute, at the very least, a nuptial gift of her training, her intellect, and her person.

In addition, Kulmus's selections and translations provide a literary snapshot of her own sentiments, filtered through the language of others. This view is not only supported by her statement to this effect, it is also in harmony with eighteenth-century theories of translation. According to these, one translated not out of piety toward another's text, but rather because that text contained the germ of an idea the translator deemed important. Texts were sometimes rather freely modified in eighteenth-century translations. Not the original author, but the translator became responsible for the utterance. Additionally, however, I believe the views expressed in the translated texts to be in general philosophical agreement with the previous characterization of Kulmus's concerns.

The translations in question treat various, wide-ranging themes. A discussion of the significance of these personal gifts requires a fairly detailed interpretation of some issues. For convenience I will group the translations according to theme. The two Glaneur articles deal primarily with aesthetics, while the Horatian odes deal with historical and personal events, morality, and poetry. While Kulmus's selection of these particular texts underscores her particular philosophical differences with Gottsched on the eve of their marriage, there is nothing adversarial or argumentative in her presentation. This context suggests the interpretation of a gift, a presentation of herself, the person he will marry. Aesthetics

Le Glaneur historique was published in Den Haag. Since Gottsched had highly praised the journal, written by Jean Baptiste le Vilain de La Varenne, Kulmus's translation of two articles from it could be interpreted as consonant with his aesthetic program. (13) Yet, if we read them as explicitly selected to represent the aesthetic judgment of the bride, we will be surprised at her independence.

The first commences with a comparison of Theophrast and La Bruyere, an ancient with a modern, in a manner typical of the period. La Varenne admits that La Bruyere exaggerates, but excuses his transgressions against the principle of verisimilitude on grounds of the brilliance of his "fiery imagination." In theory the classicist ideal of verisimilitude remains uncontested, but in practice La Varenne and, with him, Kulmus both accept a higher literary principle, and that is nothing less than individual genius.

The second selection from Le Glaneur pertains to the usefulness of theatrical productions to individuals, the state, and religion. However, it is less the idea of the theater as moral institution that is noteworthy in this case, than the particular exposition of this assertion. The article begins with a denunciation of the exclusive dominance of reason in the theater, as in life. La Varenne characterizes the stoical philosophers--together with clerics, Jansenists, enthusiasts, misanthropes, "and other objectionable people"--as "supposed wisemen." These all shudder at the word "pleasure" (Lust), the necessity for which he intends to demonstrate. All humans wish to be happy, he begins. Experience teaches, however, that the moralists who attempt to base happiness on reason have seldom educated very happy people; rather reason with its strict admonitions has tended to induce gloom.

La Varenne continues: A person whose passions have never been aroused can never feel pleasure and, consequently, never be happy. He would not banish reason from the theater, but only call upon it to calm excessively heated passions and then not to suffocate them, but rather to moderate them. La Varenne's arguments for the theater thus differ considerably from those of Gottsched, who would begin with a moral precept. To base a theory of theater on pleasure would have been an anathema to him. While Kulmus represents precisely such a view to Gottsched as her own, there is nothing confrontational in her gift of the translation. This alternate view is presented as if she were waiting for his acceptance or reaction. Historical and personal events

Kulmus's selections and translations of Horatian odes provide insight into the even more personal and rare gifts she offered Gottsched. To be sure, these reveal a taste for the ancients, but it was a taste that would contribute greatly to the construction of a new literary direction in Germany. More than this, I maintain, her interest in Horatian odes anticipates the literary movement of Sentimentalism (Empfindsamkeit) by ten to twenty years. On 20 October 1733 Kulmus had written Gottsched that she was reading Andre Dacier's translations of Horace. Since Kulmus only studied Latin in Leipzig after she was married, the seven Horatian odes were most likely translated from Andre Dacier's French renderings. (14) This kind of secondary translation was not uncommon in the early eighteenth century, and little attention was paid to the convention. Among the books listed in her library when she died was Dacier's translation of Horace from 1733. Like his, her translation is in prose. (15) The source is relevant, in part because of Dacier's annotations.

The first ode (I, 2) needs to be interpreted against the historical background of the siege of Danzig. Horace's original is a paean to Caesar Augustus. After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Augustus subdues the Republican rebels and restores order to the Roman Empire. At least this is the interpretation of events by Horace, who had originally sided with the Republicans. Dacier informs his readers that Horace was paying court to Augustus when he made it appear that Jupiter, alarmed by the death of Julius Caesar, interceded with thunder and hail. The Horatian deity then sent a god in the form of Augustus to quell the storm of revenge. From his dating of the ode Dacier deduces that Horace was concerned to satisfy Augustus that he, a former supporter of Brutus, no longer represented any threat.

Kulmus selected and translated this ode not only in anticipation of her marriage, but also during and after the siege of Danzig, the death of her mother, and her own near fatal illness. The War of the Polish Succession began when August II, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, died in 1733 and the Poles, supported by the French, elected Stanislaus Leszczynski. However, when the Russians, supported by the Saxons, insisted on the son of August II, Elector of Saxony (later August III, King of Poland), and backed their insistence with an army, Leszczynski fled to Danzig. The city welcomed him (as they were legally bound to do) and refused to surrender him. For several months Russian troops besieged and bombed various suburbs and portions of the town. When promised French support failed to arrive and after the city had suffered considerable losses, Leszczynski gave up the crown and, disguised as a peasant, fled Danzig by night.

While we cannot be certain of Luise Kulmus's political allegiances, in a poem representing his concern for her during the bombardment of Danzig, Gottsched appeals to the Empress Anne and cites Kulmus as a supporter of the son of August II (Gedichte 620-24). Whatever the case may have been, Kulmus was a resident of the city that had harbored the enemy of the Elector of Saxony, who would become her ruler when she married Gottsched. Her translation of this poem was a pledge of allegiance to her future ruler, despite having resided in Danzig--something that might have called her loyalty into question. Her retranslation from the French changed one, significant detail: in Dacier's French, Caesar Augustus is referred to as Caesar and as Prince. Luise Kulmus elected to call him August. One gesture consciously connected the two historical moments.

Ode I, 12 expresses a more personal sentiment. Horace addressed Aristius Fuskus, a friend whom he was about to visit. According to Dacier, Fuskus was a man of great integrity, but Horace had once sung the charms of his friend's current mistress, Lalage. Dacier believed he had written the ode to reassure Fuskus regarding his affections for her. Horace begins by claiming that an honest and blameless man need not fear the spears of his enemies; he can cross the Libyan desert unharmed; wolves will flee before him; he (Horace) will always love Lalage, the sweetly smiling child. In the words of the French translator: "That is why he begins with the portrait of his innocence and good morals. This honors Lalage and reassures a rival in order to prevent his jealousy. This ode could not be endowed with more delicacy and gallantry" (102).

Jealousy had been an issue in the six-year correspondence between Luise Kulmus and Johann Christoph Gottsched. Rumors had reached her that he may have loved another Liepzig woman (19 May 1732). Although Kulmus's situation was not precisely parallel to that of Horace, there is a certain, admittedly murky, similarity. Horace sought to reassure Fuskus regarding his (Horace's) affection for Lalage, the current mistress of Fuskus. In the context of Kulmus's betrothal, the emphasis shifts slightly: Kulmus sought to reassure her fiance either that her own feelings for him are genuine and profound or that she will not be swayed to jealousy of any other woman he may have loved. In either case she reassures the bridegroom of the integrity and steadfastness of her sentiment. Whether crossing the Libyan desert or facing the Numidlan lions, her love for Gottsched will withstand attacks from poison spears and carnivores. This pledge was a generous gift. Morality

Three of the odes (I, 31; II, 2; and II, 10) address the virtues of moderation and conform in content to the principles Kulmus espoused in her letters. Ode I, 31 instructs us that the health of the body and soul, along with a life passed in the innocent pleasure of poetry and music, are worth more than all the riches of the world and are all that a poet need ask of the Gods, of Apollo. Ode II, 2 underscores Kulmus's previous praise of a life of moderation and self-discipline. Horace praises to Sallust the value of a life filled with simple virtues and governed by modest needs. Such a life, indifferent to the glitter of gold, promises a safer crown and a more durable laurel wreath than one borne by the ruler of many lands. In ode II, 10 Horace advises Licinius to be neither too audacious nor too cautious, if he wants to live a happy life (Latin: rectius; French: tranquile; German: glucklich). The middle road is always the best. Take care that your residence reflects neither a slovenly, nor an extravagantly luxurious life. Do not despair in unhappy times; things will not necessarily always be thus. In good times, also, be prepared for a change of fate.


The remaining two odes (I, 26 and IV, 9) are concerned with poetry. I, 26 addresses the muses as a source of profound equanimity. As long as the author is occupied with them, he cares not who is king of the icy north. He calls on them to help him achieve immortality for his beloved Lamia in new verses written in the manner of Alcaeus (a poet from the island of Lesbos). As the reference to battles for the king of the north were in the original Latin, Kulmus did not need to add anything to complete this analogy. In a slight change of phrasing, Kulmus calls upon the muses not as Horace had, in order to immortalize Lamia, but rather to immortalize Lamia's virtue. Where Horace immortalizes Lamia's person, Kulmus immortalizes virtue.

Ode IV, 9 is one of Horace's best known. In it he asserts the power of poetry to immortalize its subject. Be he ever so great, if no poet sings of a ruler's deeds, he will be forgotten. "The secret hero and the forgotten coward suffer virtually the same fate." The recipient of this ode, Lollius, and his virtues will live in the verses of Horace. "He cannot be called happy who owns many estates. No, only he deserves this epithet who wisely uses what the gods have given him, who can bear hard poverty, who shuns vice more than death, but who still goes bravely to death when he must rescue his friends or his country."

Kulmus's epistolary claim that these translations represented her views is credible, because the views expressed in them conform to and expand on what we have surmised from other evidence. The translations, then, can double as evidence of her literary taste and aesthetic sensibilities on the eve of her wedding. Just how greatly these differed from Gottsched's may be deduced from a juxtaposition of the nuptial translations with the poetic girl he sent her for her birthday on 11 April 1735. As he published it in 1751, it was a Singgedicht with roles for a shepherd (Fidamor), a chorus of shepherds (including Fidamor's friend Damon), and a chorus of shepherdesses. It concludes in a chorus for all. Throughout the poem all rejoice that the shepherdess Phyllis, who rivals Minerva in wit and intelligence and whose birthday is celebrated, had remained faithful to Fidamor: "Magnanimity feeds the passion of your often tested love" (356-58). (16)

Pastoral poems, including those in which shepherds and shepherdesses stand in for real persons, were essentially a gallant (also anacreontic) form. Additionally, of course, the hyperbole in the comparison of Kulmus with Minerva belongs to the gallant repertoire. Kulmus had written poetry for family occasions and for Gottsched, but no pastoral poems or other gallant genres. Both her translations and his Singgedicht are handmade gifts, but his bears the weight of a gallant tradition while hers anticipates the future. The purposes may be slightly different: his poem delivers birthday congratulations and her translations present her interests and abilities. However, the differing intentions are just as significant as the differing forms.

The Horatian odes elevate integrity, self-control, and moderation in private pleasures to public virtues. Despite this and despite the fact that they are translations--the words of others--they represent a more personal communication through literature than does Gottsched's formulaic verse. The odes of Horace model a delicate exchange of personal sentiment, and the Glaneur essays explore, however tentatively, the aesthetics of individual genius and the role of pleasure in art. The virtues Kulmus reinforces--especially in the odes--are precisely the Enlightenment virtues that had emerged as important in her epistolary correspondence with her suitor: moderation in estimation of material goods, steadfastness in good fortune and bad, and the value of private pleasures. On the eve of their wedding Luise Kulmus and Johann Christoph Gottsched differed in their tastes and values, and hers proved more in keeping with what was to be the literary taste of prominent Germans in the 1750s.

In England this taste had developed earlier. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries enlightened literature there was informed by the style of Horace. Literary style of the Augustan Age became more urbane, personal, ironic, and concrete. Authors endeavored to say the most with the least. Schooled in Horace, authors like Addison and Pope replaced the elaborate Petrarchan discourse of love with discourses about friendship, as well as politics. In his "Essay on Criticism" (1711) Pope admires the "graceful negligence" of Horace. Later, his "Imitations of Horace" also offered a resounding attack on the court of King George II. In it Pope praised the simple and modest pleasures of retirement to country life. In his works, he shunned a life in proximity to the court and to politics in favor of equanimity, conviviality, and aesthetic distance.

The groundwork for this transformation of public taste had been laid by numerous editions, commentaries, and translations. Horace's Ars poetica was translated into English nine times between 1680 and 1750. Unlike Boileau and, in his wake, Gottsched, the English recipients tended even at this early date to interpret this treatise as favoring the genius of the individual author more than systematic rules of genre and style (Schmidt, Suhnel). For the first edition of his Critische Dichtkunst (1730) Gottsched used his translation of the Ars poetica as a preface to his own systematic examination of the rules governing the creation of literature. (17) While Horace, he claimed, had not intended to explain rules, he had transmitted eternal verities about literature after studying Aristoteles, Krito, and others (4-5). The Ars poetica was thus absorbed into his quest for a universal poetics.

The first article in the first issue of Critische Beytrage (1732) provides a bibliography of the German translations of this work of which Gottsched is aware. He listed translations from 1639, 1721, and two from 1730. The chronological gap is as revealing as is the paucity of attention paid to Horace relative to that in England. Indeed, unlike the discussions of Horace in England and France, those in Germany remained mired in the question of whether he was an appropriate moral authority (Krasser). Here he was generally rejected on this score due to his Epicurean proclivities. Attacking Horace's supposed vulgarity, the German critics could also be somewhat vulgar: Hederich claimed that Horace had been justified in calling himself a pig in Epicurius's herd (1710) and G.E. Muller asserted Horace exemplified "stinking lasciviousness and immoderate vice" in his historical-critical introduction to the Roman poets (1747-1751) (qtd. in Krasser 333-34).

In 1745, ten years after Kulmus's nuptial translations of Horace, Gottsched's journal Neuer Buchersaal reviewed a new translation of Horace's odes. Gottsched wrote that not since the 1690 translation of Horatian songs had Germans seen any better renditions (I/6/iii: 514). He mentions two other attempts that were never published, but does not name his wife--whether by her request or not, we do not know. Possibly Luise Gottsched untertook a revision of her translation at this time or later. When she sent these translations to Runckel on 24 December 1754 (with the understanding that they would be published) she wrote that she had undertaken them in 1735 and revised them much later. The originals, if they exist, have not come to light.

While there was limited interest in Horace in the late 1740s (see also Ball 293-98), the Latin poet attracted broader attention only after Lessing interpreted his works from a literary, rather than a moralistic point of view ("Rettungen des Horaz" 1754). At the same time, young authors of the Empfindsamkeit and Sturm und Drang grew intensely interested in the Latin poet: Karl Wilhelm Ramler, Samuel Gotthold Lange, Klopstock, Friedrich von Hagedorn, Johann Peter Uz, Johann Gotffried Herder, Christoph Martin Wieland, and others (Schmidt). Thus Kulmus's literary interest in the Latin poet had preceded this trend by 20 years.

To evaluate Kulmus's translation of selected Horatian odes in the light of this historical context is to be amazed at her boldness. In the Critische Beytrage (1732) Gottsched had listed just five translations of Horatian odes in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. (18) While she was reading Andre Dacier's translations, she also may well have been aware of the English reception of Horace. As a seaport with its own settlement of English merchants, Danzig was open to English influence and Kulmus had been studying English. When she died, Luise Gottsched left some of the classic English scholarship pertaining to Horace in her library: most notably Richard Bentley's critical edition with illustrations by John Pine (1733) and a 1733 translation of L. Crusius's two volume Lives of the Roman Poets (1726). Whether she had read these at the time of her translations we cannot say. She was, however, well acquainted with the work of Alexander Pope, the most Horatian of the authors of the Augustan Age, and would soon translate The Rape of the Lock.

Without heralding her views, Kulmus simply presented her fiance with texts that challenged many assumptions of her contemporaries: assumptions regarding Horace, cultural values, and literature. While Gottsched saw to the publication of her translations of Lambert, Gomez, and Addison and of her adaptation of Bougeant, Kulmus's translations of Horace were only printed in the context of the posthumous edition of her letters by Dorothea von Runckel (1771-1772). Why this should have been so we do not know, perhaps it was her wish. We are grateful she left them to us at all, and the fact that she passed them on to Runckel suggests she remained fond of them.

Gottsched may have proclaimed some of the values Kulmus projected, but he was unable to realize them in his writing or, apparently, to integrate them into his personal behavior. Thirteen years his junior, the precocious Luise Kulmus had a surer and more concrete grasp of new cultural tendencies. Unfortunately for Gottsched (and for German literary history) he was not able to fully appreciate this gift. Indeed it is doubly unfortunate, since the foundation for everything fresh and innovative that Kulmus offered him she had acquired, in large part, through his encouragement and instruction.


I wish to thank the Alexander-von-Humboldt Stiftung for their generous support of my research. All translations are my own.

(1) I will use the name Kulmus to refer to this historical figure before her marriage to Johann Christoph Gottsched. Luise Gottsched refers to the same person either after her marriage or both before and after.

(2) See books and articles by Heuser, Kord, Pailer, and Goodman.

(3) The most likely candidates are Luise Gottsched, Johann Christoph Gottsched, or the editor, Dorothea Henriette von Runckel. As early as 1734 Gottsched had asked Kulmus for permission to publish them, but she refused her consent (20 March 1734). After he had agreed to obey her wishes, she said they might be published after she died (30 August 1734). In the 1750s Luise Gottsched asked her friend Dorothea Henriette von Runckel to concern herself with the publication of her letters after her death. No matter who may have edited the later Leipzig letters, it is certainly possible (even probable) that these "Brautbriefe" were edited by Luise Gottsched herself, in the knowledge that they would be published posthumously. They were probably given to Runckel in the mid-1750s when she gave Runckel other revised texts with the understanding that they would be published.

(4) On 27 October 1730 Kulmus expressed thanks to her parents for permitting this correspondence. It was common for parents to oversee the correspondence of girls in the eighteenth century.

(5) References to Luise Kulmus's letters will be given simply by date. This way they may be easily found in either the edition of 1771-1772 or 1999. Frau Kulmus's liberality in permitting her daughter to select her own husband was consistent with having permitted her to select her learned preoccupations.

(6) It is difficult to assess what the real salary of an Ordinarius at Leipzig might have been, because it was always augmented by prebends, fees, and licenses. In 1765, the year before Gottsched died, tenured professors with seniority earned between 100 and 180 thaler per year. Firewood, food, and other compensation in material goods might be added to this (McClelland 89). In addition Ordinarien were entitled to fees for exams and tutorials (Privatissimi). In the case of exams, these fees were prescribed by the university. An examiner for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy received 50 thaler (Kessler 242). Other services might carry still further remuneration. For instance, Gottsched received 10 thaler per year for his duties as Senior of the Deutsche Gesellschaft (Reichel I: 292).

(7) Kording mistakenly identified this reference as Erasmus's "In Praise of Folly" (329).

(8) He had been nominated at the end of 1733, but the Elector of Saxony only confirmed the appointment at the beginning of 1734. Gottsched delivered his inaugural address on 18 February 1734.

(9) These were to be found mainly in towns governed directly by the state and the earliest ones date to the thirteenth century. These also prescribed the precise order of events in an official proposal (Simson, G/inter).

(10) To date the reason for the loss of the family fortune has not been verified, but Kulmus's poem to her father on his birthday in 1728 suggests that he possessed an expansive attitude toward money (Kleinere Gedichte 32-34).

(11) During this epistolary courtship her uncle, Johann Adam Kulmus (1689-1745), traveled at least twice to Leipzig and stayed with Gottsched. Her half-brother, Johann Ernst Kulmus (1709-1769), studied medicine in Leipzig from 1730-1732. Surely other emissaries were also found.

(12) These were included in the 1771-1772 edition of her letters, but omitted in Kording's 1999 edition.

(13) Kulmus wrote "das letzte [Le Glaneur] haben Sie mir selbst sehr angepriesen" (24 January 1735). Within the context of the correspondence in our possession, however, it was she who introduced the topic of this journal. Two years earlier she had asked him what he thought of the journal (11 April 1733).

(14) When she arrived in Leipzig as Luise Gottsched, one of her first activities was formal instruction in Latin from one of her husband's students, J.J. Schwabe. How much Latin she already knew cannot be determined with certainty. According to Gottsched, in Danzig she had once copied an entire book in Latin for her uncle, a Collegium pathologicum, without understanding it. By the time she revised her translations, she had had instruction in Latin. In any case, she did not slavishly follow Dacier's French.

(15) In general the French tended to translate ancient poetry into prose, while the English tended to translate it into verse.

(16) As Gottsched published it in 1762, it was a Cantata. The words remained the same and he made minor changes in punctuation, but it no longer appeared with divided roles in which particular stanzas were given to particular voices.

(17) Gottsched had first been introduced to the works of Horace by his literature teacher Johann Valentin Pietsch (1690-1733; after 1717 Professor der Poesie in Konigsberg) when he was actively looking for a guidebook on how to compose literature. He appears to have begun his translation of the Ars poetica at that time. He published portions of his translation in Der Biedermann two years before its entire publication in Critische Dichtkunst. There, too, he referred to Horace's "herrliche Regel" (Ball 94).

(18) At roughly the same time that Luise Kulmus was translating the odes, members of the Deutsche Gesellschaft in Leipzig translated two of Horace's satires: Heinrich Sigismund von BrOck translated Satire I. 1 in Der Deutschen Gesellschaft (1730, 513-17); and Johann Christoph Gottsched translated Satire 1.4 in Der Deutschen Gesellschaft (1734, 424-31). The latter is a defense of satire, and both have a context in the popularity of that genre.

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Katherine R. Goodman is Professor of German Studies at Brown University. She is the author of Amazons and Apprentices: Women and the German Parnassus in the Early Enlightenment (1999) and Dis/Closures: Women's Autobiography in Germany 1790-1914 (1986). She has written consistently about German women authors and has also edited Beyond the Eternal Feminine (with Susan Cocalis, 1982), In the Shadow of Olympus: Women Authors in Germany 1790-1810 (with Edith Waldstein, 1990), and Bettina Brentano-von Arnim: Politics and Gender (with Elke Frederiksen, 1995).
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Author:Goodman, Katherine R.
Publication:Women in German Yearbook
Article Type:Topic Overview
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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