Stefan George (1868–1933)

  • Hans Reiss


Stefan George was a great poet. Through friendship and precept he directly influenced a number of gifted writers, academics and intellectuals who formed that loose, influential conglomeration usually called the George-Kreis,1 and so played an important role in German social and intellectual history. He attacked the prevailing tendencies of his time. Inevitably, like all those who oppose established or fashionable values and currents of thought he was much criticised. Of late, he also been accused of lack of social and political commitment.2 Much of the criticism, and some of the adulation, has been undiscerning and insensitive. Still, his ideal of a chosen elite has, however much it attracted some, understandably repelled many.


German Literature German Culture Spiritual Change Romance World Great Poet 
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  1. 3.
    For a perceptive consideration of their relationship cf. Th. Weevers, ‘Albert Verwey and Stefan George. Their Conflicting Affinities’, GLL, XXII, 1968, pp. 79–89.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    For a thorough appraisal of this journal cf. Karihans Kluncker, Blätter für die Kunst. Zeitschrift der Dichterschule Stefan Georges Frankfurt/Main, 1974. There were 12 volumes altogether, which appeared between 1892–1919.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Cf. Eudo C. Mason, ‘Rilke und Stefan George’, Rilke in neuer Sicht ed. Käte Hamburger, Cologne/Mayence/Stuttgart/Berlin, 1971, for an analysis of their relationship.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Cf. A. Mockel, ‘Quelques Souvenirs sur Stefan George’, Revue d’Allemagne, 11, 1928, p. 391Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    also quoted by Hans Wendt, Stefan Georges Gespräche (Lubeck,1970, unpublished MS, Stefan George Archiv, Württembergische Landes- bibliothek, Stuttgart) p. 16, a most informative work that merits publication.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Cf. to Arthur Stahl, 15 July 1888, quoted by Robert Boehringer, Mein Bild von Stefan George Munich and Düsseldorf 1951, pp. 28f., where George states that he is becoming more cosmopolitan in England; cf. also his remark, ‘Germany is unbearable’, made to Ernst Robert Curtius (‘Stefan George im Gespräch’, Kritische Schriften Berne, 1950, p. 153).Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Cf. Paul Gerhard Klussmann, Stefan George. Zum Selbstverständnis der Kunst und des Dichters der Moderne Bonn, 1961, who emphasises this desire (pp. 13 ff.). Klussmann’s book is an excellent monograph from which I have learnt much.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Kurt Hildebrandt, Erinnerung an Stefan George und seinen Kreis Bonn, 1965, p. 108.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Ludwig Klages, ‘Aus einer Seelenlehre des Künstlers’, Bl. 1 1, p. 138. Cf. B.A. Rowley, ‘The Ages of Man in Goethe and George’, Modern Language Quarterly XVII, 1956, for instance, who interprets the poem as a Lebenslied symbolising the three stages of man’s life.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Jethro Bithell, ‘Stefan George and Ida Coblenz’, German Studies presented to Leonard Ashley Willoughby Oxford, 1952, particularly pp. 5f. for an account of George’s attitude to Dehmel who married Ida Coblenz, the only woman in whom George ever showed any interest. But George’s contempt for Dehmel antedates that marriage and was based not on personal grounds but sprang from his conception of poetry.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Cf. Manfred Durzak, Der junge Stefan George, Kunsttheorie und Dichtung, Munich, 1968, p. 110. Durzak’s book is most interesting as is also his Stefan George. Zwischen Symbolismus und Expressionismus, Stuttgart/Berlin/Cologne/ Mayence, 1974, p. 138.Google Scholar
  12. 22.
    Cf. Claude David, Stefan George. Sein dichterisches Werk (trs. Alexa Remmen and Karl Thiemer ), Munich, 1967, p. 38.Google Scholar
  13. 26.
    Cf. the account given by Marianne Weber of the relationship between the two men in Max Weber. Ein Lebensbild Tübingen, 1926, pp. 462–72.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    Cf. for instance the essays in the Jahrbücher für die geistige Bewegung ed. Friedrich Gundolf and Friedrich Wolters, 3 vols, 1910–12, a journal which was closely supervised by George. Cf. Winkler, George Kreis pp. 65— 77, who calls George its ‘real editor’ (p. 67);Google Scholar
  15. 28.
    cf. also Frank Jolles, ‘Die Entwicklungen der wissenschaftlichen Grundsätze des George Kreises’, Etudes Germaniques XXII, 1967, pp. 346–58 for a good account of the aims of the ‘Kreis’ which amounts to a conception of ‘Wissenschaft’ diametrically opposed to that based on natural science (p. 358) and indeed on traditional scholarship.Google Scholar
  16. 28.
    Cf. also Claude David, Jahrbuch für die geistige Bewegung (1910–11), Etudes Germaniques, X 1955, pp. 276–97 for another discussion of the ideas pervading this journal. David argues convincingly that its emphasis on the deeds of heroes and creative artists were the main tenets of the essays.Google Scholar
  17. 29.
    For a discussion of Gundolfs work cf. Lothar Helbing and C. V. Bock, ‘Friedrich Gundolf’, Arthur R. Evans, Jr., On Four Modern Humanists, Princeton, N. J., 1970, pp. 54–84.Google Scholar
  18. 30.
    For a discussion of Kantorowicz’s (1895–1963) work cf. Yakov Malkeil, ‘Ernst Kantorowicz’, ibid., pp. 146–219.Google Scholar
  19. 32.
    Cf. Kurt Breysig, Aus meinen Tagen und Träumen. Memoiren, Aufzeichnungen, Briefe, Gespräche ed. Gertrud Breysig and Michael Landmann, Berlin, 1962, pp. 26ff..Google Scholar
  20. 39.
    Cf. Michael M. Metzger and Erika A. Metzger, Stefan George, New York, 1972, p. 104.Google Scholar
  21. 41.
    Walter Müller-Seidel, ‘ “Diskussion” zu Vincent J. Günther, “Der ewige Augenblick” ’, Stefan George Kolloquium ed. Eckhard Heftrich et al, Cologne, 1969, p. 206. George never fully disclosed his own thoughts. According to Henry Benrath (quoted by Wendt, p. 171), he intimated that not all could and should be revealed.Google Scholar
  22. 50.
    Cf. Donald G. MacRae, Max Weber, London, 1974, p. 88.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hans Reiss 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Reiss
    • 1
  1. 1.BristolUK

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