December 10 2009

I’ll end this rather long sequence on Germany with two letters published in The Times on January 12 1906, which belong to the ominous literature, the literature of warnings, of 1871-1914. The first is signed by Germans, the second by English.

The Liberals had formed a minority government in the previous month. The letters were published on the first day of the general election which gave them their greatest landslide. The election lasted until February 8.

The Conservatives had signed the Entente Cordiale with France in 1904.

HMS Dreadnought was launched on February 10. On March 19, as we’ve seen, The Daily Mail would send its newspaper sellers onto the streets dressed as Prussian soldiers with spiked helmets, as it began to serialise a book by William Le Queux called The Invasion of 1910.

The instigator of both letters was Count Harry Kessler (“the red Count”), who signed the German one as First Vice-President, Deutscher Künstlerbund. He was one of the cultured cosmopolitans of his time and had many English connections. He used his “influence”, right up to the end of the Great War, to mediate behind the scenes between Germany and England.

My great-grandfather, an English painter called George Clausen, co-signed the second letter. We have met his German-speaking father, Jürgen Johnsen Clausen, leaving Danish Northern Schleswig in 1843 to look for work in Germany as a decorative artist. In 1844 Jürgen migrated to England, via Rotterdam. His son was born in London in 1852.

Did Toynbee, who was still at Winchester, open the paper on that Friday morning? He tells us somewhere (I don’t have the reference to hand) that it was the Bosnian crisis of 1908 which made him into a lifelong reader of The Times. The sentiments of the letters were his.

Click the image; more below

On the German side there are five composers: Strauss, Humperdinck, Siegfried Wagner, Joachim (violinist and friend of Brahms; actually Hungarian) and Ansorge (pianist and pupil of Liszt).

From literature, Hofmannsthal, Dehmel and Hauptmann; and, less known today, Heyse, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1910.

From the visual arts, Liebermann and von Uhde, the presidents of the Berlin and Munich Secessions respectively; von Stuck, prominent in the Munich Secession; Klinger and others.

Others are from theology, philosophy, law, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, psychology, medicine, classics, archaeology, history, art history, economics. Furtwängler, the archaeologist, was the father of the conductor. Nietzsche’s sister is there. She lived to become a Nazi. Sombart, the economist, was accused later of Nazi affiliations. There are no clerics. Count Harry Kessler is unclassifiable.

One or two of the signatories had English connections which are evident in their professional titles. Siegfried Wagner had not yet married his English wife Winifred, nor had his sister married Houston Stewart Chamberlain: neither exactly alliances in the spirit of this letter.

Here are links to the rest: Arthur Auwers, Ernst or Gustav von Bergmann (but I believe this is Ernst), Wilhelm von Bode, Lujo Brentano, Hermann Diels. Robert Eucken is, I am sure, a misprint, rare in The Times; this is Rudolf Eucken. Hermann Emil Fischer, Ernst Haeckel, Adolf von Harnack, Ferdinand von Harrach, Adolf von Hildebrand, Ludwig von Hofmann, Leopold Graf von Kalckreuth, Robert Koch, Karl Lamprecht, Richard Muther, Walter Nernst, Robert von Olshausen, Wilhelm Trübner, Adolf Wach, Heinrich Wilhelm Gottfried von Waldeyer-Hartz, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Wilhelm Wundt.

I can find almost nothing, on a cursory search, about Adolf Lichtwark, but the article on Kessler, to which I have linked, does mention him. “After moving to Berlin in 1893, he worked on the Art Nouveau journal PAN, which was publishing literary work by, among others, Richard Dehmel, Theodor Fontane, Friedrich Nietzsche, Detlev von Liliencron, Julius Hart, Novalis, Paul Verlaine and Alfred Lichtwark. The short-lived journal also had published graphical works by numerous artists like Henry van de Velde, Max Liebermann, Otto Eckmann and Ludwig von Hofmann.”

I have linked mainly to English Wikipedia pages. The German equivalents sometimes give more information.

Is the German letter a degree more heartfelt than the English?

We offer one composer, Elgar, whose reputation was already established in Germany, thanks to Strauss, Hans Richter and others, and was about to grow. Later it faded.

Our literary signatories include only one important imaginative creator, Hardy. Margaret Woods was a poet. Zangwill was a novelist and Zionist and a friend of Herzl.

Bradley was a Shakespearean scholar. Furnivall, who is shown with a German academic affiliation, and Napier were scholars of English language and literature; Furnivall was for a time editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, Napier had lived in Germany. Pollock was a writer about law. Murray was Toynbee’s future father-in-law. Waldstein was another classical scholar, and an archaeologist. He had been born in New York, the son of German Jewish immigrants, but he moved to England; he was a friend of Marx. Firth was a historian.

We have no fewer than nine painters, despite being not very visual people: Clausen, Crane, Guthrie, Lavery, Richmond, Ricketts, Rothenstein, Shannon and Strang; and a sculptor, Frampton.

There is a clutch of Arts and Crafts figures. Emery Walker was a friend of William Morris, and was painted by Clausen. He designed typefaces for Count Kessler’s Cranach-Presse in Weimar. Webb was an architect and another associate of Morris. Jane was Morris’s widow. Mackail was his biographer. Lethaby was George Clausen’s son-in-law’s, my grandfather’s, teacher of design at The Royal College of Art. He would refer to him as “my master”.

There are various other pupils, relatives and survivors. Georgina was Burne-Jones’s widow. William Rossetti was the brother of the pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel and the poet Christina, and the family biographer. George and Francis were sons of Charles Darwin, respectively an astronomer and a botanist. Lord Avebury was a pupil of Darwin, and a biologist and antiquarian. Foster and Wallace were friends and followers of Darwin, respectively an anatomist and a naturalist.

Lockyer was an astronomer. Ramsay and Roscoe were chemists. Kelvin and Rayleigh were physicists. Frazer was the anthropologist who wrote The Golden Bough.

Cunninghame Graham was a socialist, activist and polymath and a friend of many English artists. Religion is again, rather refreshingly, unrepresented. That would not be the case today.

The reference in the English letter to Helmholtz is to Hermann von Helmholtz. The honorary degree was awarded to Gerhard Hauptmann in 1905. The “famous composer” is presumably Strauss or Humperdinck.

War was already, in 1906, being written about as a world-calamity, a threat to civilisation itself. Nobody would have thought such a thing even ten years earlier.

What did George Clausen’s father Jürgen think as he read the letters at his breakfast in Wandsworth? He was a German-speaking Dane by birth: but the Germans were now in occupation of his birthplace.

His son writes in a similar spirit at the age of eighty-six, on March 2 1939.

Connard was an Academician. He had been an official war artist to the Royal Navy and painted the German battleship the Goeben and the Zeebrugge raid.

A rough image of a Clausen painting, The Visit, shown at the Leicester Galleries in 1909: interior of his house at 61 Carlton Hill, St John’s Wood, which he had bought in 1905, showing his daughter Meg, my grandmother, and an unknown visitor

10 Responses to “1906”

  1. Lucienne Kouaci Says:


    I am an admirer of your Greatgrandfather, as painter, George Clausen and I am writing his biography in french language.

    Would you have some informations which would be useful for me for the writing of this biography ?

    Many thanks for your reply.

    Mrs L. Kouaci.

  2. davidderrick Says:

    “We believe that on the continuance of this intimacy between both countries depend to a great extent the future and fulness of European civilization.”

    Churchill, 1940: “Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.”

  3. davidderrick Says:

    Jeremy Dibble, DNB article on Hubert Parry: “Even with the deterioration of the international situation Parry, a pro-Teuton [and Brahmsian], genuinely believed that Germany would not go to war, a view that was clear from the incidental music he wrote for The Acharnians in February 1914, in which he sought, by means of popular tunes from the street and music-hall, national anthems, and other patriotic songs, to parody those in government and elsewhere who were whipping up panic and hysteria. Therefore, when hostilities did break out, the shock was devastating. During the war he watched a life’s work of progress and education being wiped away as the male population – particularly the new fertile generation of composing talent – of the Royal College dwindled.”

  4. davidderrick Says:

    Arthur Rackham to George Clausen, August 18 1939: “We thought, we late Victorians, that we had got past all such criminal folly & expected that those after us would have finer & wiser lives than we had had.”

    In James Hamilton, Arthur Rackham, A Life with Illustration, Pavilion Books, 1990. Rackham died three days after the declaration of war. He had been attracted to northern Romanticism generally. Illustrations of Andersen, Grimm, Wagner. Walking tours in Germany.

  5. davidderrick Says:

    In the ’20s Clausen painted or drew at least three surviving followers of great Victorians:

    Emery Walker, follower of William Morris and mentioned here

    Sidney Colvin, now remembered as a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson

    Henry Festing Jones, remembered as a friend of Samuel Butler.

    In 1904, Clausen had inscribed a drawing of his daughter Meg to Sidney Paget, the illustrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand Magazine. To be sold at Bonhams, November 27 2013. A 1927 letter from Clausen to Sidney’s brother HM Paget was sold at Christies in 2001.

  6. […] The Times to express their concern about the deteriorating relationship between the two countries. Their letter was published on January […]

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