Clue to Kutzebue

January 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm (books, entertainment, europe, jane austen, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )


Thanks to the “power” of the internet, a question five years in the making, has been answered! Danke, Sabine!

A letter written in 1833 regarding a trip into Derbyshire by Mamma, her three unmarried daughters (Fanny, Eliza, Maria), and the Austens – not only Edward and Emma but also Edward’s sister Caroline Austen, has been used as a source in my Persuasions article “Derbyshires Corresponding: Elizabeth Bennet and the Austen Tour of 1833” (the 2008 print article also appears online).

In the midst of discussing the beauties of Derbyshire, the letter writer draws on a memory – but I was never sure quite what memory had been stirred…

The original transcription read:

– Ashbourne is quite small, & the town all very close together: Eliza made me look out of the bedroom window of our nice little Inn when it grew dark, she was so struck with its likeness to one’s idea of the street scene at Crackwinkel – do you remember when Sabina & [Thuars; Sh???ars] hide themselves behind the dark lamp post? there was just such a one in the little narrow street there, & even Spurling’s window. —We got up at 6 the next morning to make a little sketch…

I have searched for this; my guess at the time was ‘sounds like a book?‘ But what do you search for? Look up Crackwinkel and Google asks if you mean “crack winkel”… Not a help!

And Sabina’s company, the loss of that second name meant I had only SABINA to search for. Not a help either.

But the place name, ending in Winkel, pointed to something in German. I’m still not sure whether Maria has written the character’s name as Sabina (an anglicized version of the correct German spelling, Sabine) or that Spurling isn’t what she writes. The letter came to me as a xerox, AND it’s cross written!

I emailed my Sabine (whose delightful blog is Kleidung um 1800), a picture of the paragraph, but she had already cracked this old nut.

I’m going to include the photo, and if you would like to see if you can decipher this section of the letter, click on the photo to enlarge. The answer to the puzzle will be given after the “MORE” link in this post.

1833 letter-2

The lines begin 2nd line from the top. You will see …windows are beautiful — Ashbourne is quite small… Keep reading.

Sabine knew straightaway that the author was August von Kutzebue, and the play — a Lustspiel in vier Akten — was called Die deutschen Kleinstädter (Vienna, 1802). She then explained, “Kleinstadt means small town and the Kleinstaedter is the small town dweller / inhabitant, but whenever a person is referred to as “Kleinstaedter” it means that the person is kind of narrow-minded and of lesser education…I guess this was the same meaning back then?!”

The fictional city of the play is Kraehwinkel (or Krähwinkel); Maria definitely uses an initial ‘C.’ So, Craehwinkel. Sabine continued, “The main character is named ‘Staar’ and his daughter’s name is Sabine. Staar would love to see his daughter married to Sperling…”

I’ve look and looked again and again and think Maria indeed spells Sperling as Spurling. But for the life of me I could not see Sabina’s companion as Staar — see names listed in the German citation for the play that Sabine sent.

I had to track down a “script” of the play.

And it was while looking for Die deutschen Kleinstaedter that I found… LOVERS’ VOWS! Yes, that play remembered by Austen fans for the central role it plays in Mansfield Park was a Kotzebue play! (Mrs Inchbald created the English adaptation.) His play, Das Kind der Liebe (The Child of Love).

Without spending a lot of time stretching my German language knowledge, I may have found the relevant scenes Eliza and Maria — and the letter’s recipient, Charlotte, were reliving. For the “missing” companion of Sabina is revealed: OLMERS.

Once the O is revealed; the next letter, which looked more of an ‘h’, turns into an ‘l’ followed by an ‘m’ and the last letters of ‘rs’ suddenly make sense.

See A Celebration of Women Writers, for Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows,
which includes information on Austen’s use of the play

Now the question is, had the Smith girls seen Kotzebue’s play? did they read it, as the phrase “one’s idea of the street scene” suggests? did they know it in a translation, or had they attempted it in German?

Maria’s paragraph now reads,

– Ashbourne is quite small, & the town all very close together: Eliza made me look out of the bedroom window of our nice little Inn when it grew dark, she was so struck with its likeness to one’s idea of the street scene at Craehwinkel – do you remember when Sabina & Olmers hide themselves behind the dark lamp post? there was just such a one in the little narrow street there, & even Spurling’s window. —We got up at 6 the next morning to make a little sketch…

Fingers crossed that some day just one of the three sketches (by Emma, Eliza, Maria) will turn up, of a little street in Ashbourne that reminded them of a scene in a German play. Complete with lamp post and Sperling’s window.

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