Droste-Portal is the forum for research, exchange of information and discussion about Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848).
- It compiles interesting facts about the life, work and impact of Droste.
- It includes an on-line edition of the authoress's works, which will be completed gradually.
- It provides reports on new publications and offers regular bibliographic summaries.
- It forms an informative nodal point in the world-wide web and attempts to bring together international activities featuring Annette von Droste-Hülshoff.
- Droste-Portal is a project of the Westfalen-Lippe Regional Agency's Commission for Literature for Westphalia. All English texts including the translations of Droste's works were prepared by Sydney G. Swan.
Closer study of literature in a language other than one's mother-tongue, or most familiar language, may sometimes be made more enjoyable by initial help offered by a translation. This could apply more especially in the case of texts written in an earlier period, in which some words or phrases may seem archaic or obscure.
The following translations have been contributed to this website by Sydney G. Swan. We owe him sincere thanks and our deep gratitude.
Sydney G. Swan (1922-2011) was born in East End Finchley, north of London and spent his life years at Coesfeld, Münsterland, Germany. He has been a member of staff of the institute concerned with research into Annette von Droste-Hülshoff's life and work.
- The Jews' Beech. A Portrait of Morals in Hilly Westphalia (Die Judenbuche)
- Westphalian Sketches from a Westphalian Pen (Westfälische Schilderungen aus einer westfälischen Feder)
- Joseph. A Crime Story (Joseph. Eine Kriminalgeschichte)
- Rural Life in our Country (Bei uns zu Lande auf dem Lande)
- The Old Parish Priest's Week (Des alten Pfarrers Woche)
- The Battle of Lohn Moor 1623 (Opening part) (Die Schlacht im Loener Bruch. 1623)
- Sincerely (Herzlich)
- On the Tower (Am Turme)
- A Sleepless Night (Durchwachte Nacht)
- Lying in the Grass (Im Grase)
- Lying in the Moss (Im Moose)
- Awaiting Moonrise (Mondesaufgang)
- Retribution (Die Vergeltung)
- To my Mother (An meine Mutter)
- The Little Lad in the Fen (Der Knabe im Moor)
- The Mirror Image (Das Spiegelbild)
- To a dead lark (Die todte Lerche)
- Farewell, one and all (Lebt wohl)
- To Elise. On 19th November 1843 (An Elise. Am 19. November 1843)
- Annette von Droste-Hülshoff to Anton Matthias Sprickmann in Berlin, Feb 8th 1819
- Annette von Droste-Hülshoff to Christoph Bernhard Schlüter in Münster, Nov 19th 1835
- Annette von Droste-Hülshoff to Jenny von Laßberg in Meersburg, Jan 29th 1839
- Annette von Droste-Hülshoff to Therese von Droste-Hülshoff in Bökendorf, Nov 9th 1847
- Annette von Droste-Hülshoff to Levin Schücking in Mondsee, May 5th 1842
- Annette von Droste-Hülshoff to Elise Rüdiger in Abbenburg, July 24th 1843
Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848)
When Annette von Droste-Hülshoff died 150 years ago at Meersburg Castle, her poetic work was as good as unknown. Today, the woman pictured on the former 20 Mark note is immeasurably more popular than at the time of her death. For her literary "discovery" the authoress has to thank the fact that she was stylised as a figurehead in the culture struggle of the 1870s. Characterised by the attributes, 'catholic' and 'Westphalian', she was very quickly declared to be the "greatest German poetess", which brought scholarly investigation in its wake and earned her such a prominent position in literary history writings.
Anna Elisabeth Franzisca Adolphine Wilhelmine Louise Maria von Droste-Hülshoff - thus was her baptismal name - was born at the moated chateau of Hülshoff between Havixbeck and Roxel, near Münster. Care of the scarcely viable seven-month baby was in the hands of the wet-nurse, Catharina Plettendorf to whom Droste-Hülshoff remained closely attached all her life.
She grew up well looked after and was brought up in the confines and closeness of the world of the Westphalian nobility. Her mother ensured elementary lessons; later, various tutors were employed. It was said that, even as a child, Droste-Hülshoff was again and again afflicted with constant sicknesses - a nervous, overwrought condition was early confirmed, in particular. The poetess's life-long catalogue of sickness which sometimes made literary work impossible for months, can be traced through her letters. In her novel (fragment) Bei uns zu Lande auf dem Lande  Droste-Hülshoff affords a glimpse into her parental home and offers impressive portraits of her mother, Therese von Droste-Hülshoff who is described as lively, intelligent and devoted to the practical side of life, and of her father Clemens August von Droste-Hülshoff whom she depicts as well read, musical and very benevolent.
Childhood and Youth
Droste-Hülshoff began writing early in her life, in the main, little occasional poems and verses for the family album, at first still completely within the context of family life in the Biedermeier period. Her poetic talent was quickly recognised by relatives. Even in 1804, her uncle, Werner von Haxthausen, described the - at the time - seven-year old as a "second Sappho". Also, her talent was already being discussed in Münster in the year of 1809, to the extent that the publisher, Friedrich Raßmann requested contributions to his poetic booklet, "Mimigardia", from Droste-Hülshoff who was not yet twelve years old; however, the family did not allow this.
In Münster, Anton Matthias Sprickmann, a poet and lawyer almost fifty years older, emerged as her first literary supporter and person to whom she could turn - someone whose interest for her literary work Droste-Hülshoff could claim. She laid before him her early projects - the tragedy Bertha, or the Alps (1813/14) the epic poem Walther (1818) and the fragment of the novel Ledwina (1819) - in detail and informed him about the progress of her work. It was also he to whom, as 19 year old in 1816, she sent a first noteworthy poem with the title Unruhe, which depicts a biographical fundamental conflict, namely that between self assertion and conformity.
In her youth, Droste-Hülshoff seldom had the opportunity to escape the confines of the parental home. Apart from minor local excursions, only occasional visits to Bökendorf near Brakel, provided a change. Here in the Paderborn countryside relatives of her mother, the von Haxthausen family, had their seat. At chateau Bökendorf the "Bökendorf Fairytale Circle" would gather around the brothers August and Werner von Haxthausen and Wilhelm Grimm. During this period Droste-Hülshoff also took a part in the collection of sagas, fairytales and literary folklore.
Droste's "Youthful Catastrophe"
In 1820 the Bökerhof was the scene of Droste-Hülshoff's so-called youthful catastrophe - her unhappy relationship with the Göttingen law student, Heinrich Straube. August von Arnswaldt, in an agreement with with Straube, had tried to put Droste-Hülshoff's love to the test and had also temporarily gained her affection. Hereupon both men promptly renounced their friendship with Droste-Hülshoff in a jointly composed letter. The failure of the relationship to Straube, brought about by the intrigue, was a traumatic experience combined with all sorts of humiliation. It led to her no longert visiting Bökendorf for almost twenty years. The painful experience is reflected in her poem Die Taxuswand: Along thy dark edge will I creep, and cancel eighteen years from my life's book. (The Yew Hedge). Droste-Hülshoff had, in 1819, already begun a cycle of spiritual songs for the ecclesiastical year's Sundays and festive days. Against the background of that fundamental shock in connection with the "Arnswaldt-Straube experience", her texts fell into personal confession in which uncertainty about faith became a theme. The poems bore - as Droste-Hülshoff wrote - traces of a soul much hard pressed and divided. Not until twenty years later was she able to complete Geistliche Jahr (The Ecclesiastical Year). The cycle was not published until after her death; it is regarded today as belonging to the outstanding examples of spiritual lyric.
From Rüschhaus into the World
Drastic changes in Droste-Hülshoff's life occurred in 1826 when her father died. The brother Werner took over the family seat and Droste-Hülshoff moved, together with her mother and sister Jenny, into the Rüschhaus, a dwelling near Nienberge, some nine kilometres from Münster, that had been bought shortly before. It is a mixture of farmhouse and manor house built by the famous Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun. In seclusion, Droste-Hülshoff lived a simple, reserved and rather unpretentious life. She withdrew into her "little snail shell" as she called her living room in order to write, read, compose poetry, or just to daydream. For some time she resorted to her second talent, music. Her uncle Maximillian, her father's brother, had already given her his book, Generalbaßbuch, on the theory of composition as a present in 1821. It formed the music theory basis for Droste-Hülshoff's various Lieder compositions and opera drafts of the Eighteen-twenties.
Then, in the Thirties, Droste-Hülshoff gradually widened her horizons. She undertook several journeys to the Rhine, to Bonn and Cologne where she stayed with relatives. She was able to form new friendships, made the acquaintanceship of wealthy banker's wife, Sybille Mertens-Schaffhausen in whose house she also met Adele Schopenhauer, the sister of the famous philosopher. She took full part in the social life; once she even took part in the Cologne Carnival. In 1835 a further journey led to the canton of Thurgau in Switzerland, to chateau Eppishausen. Her sister, Jenny was already living here, who had been married since 1834 to Baron Joseph von Laßberg who later became the owner of Meersburg Castle. It is known from her letters that although Droste-Hülshoff liked the Swiss mountain landscape, she was in general disappointed with the sojourn.
Travelling and Homeland
Responsible for this, on the one hand, was the chateau's position - during the long winter one was almost completely isolated from the world outside - but the lack of mental diversion was all the more so. The authoress could discern no interesting interlocutor among Laßberg's learned friends, admirers of mediaeval literature. Great dissatisfaction and severe home-sickness ensured that Droste-Hülshoff was glad, after over a year, to be able to travel to the homeland again. From the literary aspect, she occupied herself in the Thirties with the composition of epic verse, longer narrative verse, often laborious detail work, which was still bound up with Biedermeier taste of the period. This includes Das Hospiz auf dem großen St. Bernhard, Des Arztes Vermächtniß, and Die Schlacht im Loener Bruch. (The Hospice on Great St. Bernhard, The Doctor's Legacy and The Battle of Lohn Moor). These texts, together with a few other poems, were published in 1838 by the Aschendorff Verlag in Münster. The Münster philosophy lecturer, Christoph Bernhard Schlüter was involved in a special way in the preparation of the edition, who was the authoress's main correspondent on literary questions in the Thirties. Droste-Hülshoff was now a published poetess; however, only the initials of her name appeared on the title page. The first great creative phase closes with the edition which remained largely unnoticed.
Schücking and "Die Judenbuche"
During the subsequent period Droste-Hülshoff was urged on to new projects, especially by the family, that she followed up only half-heartedly. She concerned herself with the comedy Perdu! Oder Dichter, Verleger und Blaustrümpfe and intended to to write a Westphalian novel with the title Bei uns zu Lande auf dem Lande. All in all, it was a time when a literary reorientation set in for the authoress. If Schlüter had been a kind of literary mentor in the Thirties, then in the next period this was to be the seventeen years younger Levin Schücking the son of Droste-Hülshoff's friend Catharina Busch. Schücking was very bustling and knew his way around the literature business - in him Droste-Hülshoff had a correspondent who guided her to contemporry literature, but who also made her work for his own projects.
Droste-Hülshoff delivered a series of descriptions of landscapes and localities, as well as several historical ballads with a local interest, within a brief period for the volume Das malerische und romantische Westphalen that Schücking had taken on. It was Schücking, too, who arranged the publication of her novella Die Judenbuche. Ein Sittengemälde aus dem gebirgigten Westphalen (1842) in the former literary paper, the Cottasche Morgenblatt. She succeeded in creating a "Portrait of Morals" which reflects a segment of Westphalian life in almost naturalistic sharpness of detail, with the story of Friedrich Mergel who, years after the murder of a Jew, returned to the scene of the deed and hanged himself in the beech. Yet Die Judenbuche is more than a study of low life; it is simultaneously crime story and psychograph, a story which by its ambiguity, in the end, fundamentally calls into question the perception of reality.
Droste at Meersburg
Droste-Hülshoff experienced one phase of highest poetic inspiration in the winter of 1841/42 that she spent when visiting her sister Jenny von Laßberg, now mistress of castle Meersburg on Lake Constance. The Laßbergs had been living at Meersburg castle since the end of 1838, but Droste-Hülshoff had, after the bad experiences at Eppishausen, at first refused to pay another visit to her sister. However, in the autumn of 1841 when a journey to Lake Constance once again became the subject of conversation, it was under more favourable portents. Levin Schücking could be among those present, who was supposed to be compiling a catalogue of the valuable Laßberg library. Thus Droste-Hülshoff set off on 21st December 1841 on a journey that she later summed up with We have been having a life of the gods here and our life together […] in Meersburg [was] surely the most cordial time of our mutual life.
The Meersburg years became climaxes in the life of Droste-Hülshoff, through the coincidence of attendant circumstances. Altogether Droste-Hülshoff visited the old Meersburg castle three times; first from September 1841 until the end of July 1842 - the second stay lasted from the end of September 1843 until end September 1844, the third from September 1846 until her death. Travels to Lake Constance, initially undertaken with reservations, gradually developed into excursions into familiar territory. The authoress writes to her friend, Philippa Pearsall: ...I regard Meersburg as the second half of my homeland.
Writing at Lake Constance
Meersburg became the pivotal and hinge point of a new world for Droste-Hülshoff. She could breathe more freely here; here she was released from many duties and harassments that she suffered at home; here she recovered her health and found manifold stimulation and diversion. Here, too, she was uncommonly creative. During the winter of 1841/42 at Meersburg, spent in the company of Schücking, a new poem came into being almost every day, through his urging and within a short time, material for a whole volume of poetry, which was to gain a hearing for the authoress in the literary world.
Many of the texts developed at Meersburg already display their local connection in their titles, such as Am Bodensee, Das alte Schloß, Am Thurme or Die Schenke am See. These texts may be headed "Travel pictures of Lake Constance", although they do not appear under that heading as such in any edition of poetry; 'travel pictures' which give evidence by their literary ranking, that they distance themselves from all traditional "Lake Constance" hymnody and contrived pathos by means of subjectively emotional language. Beside these many "new" texts the authoress also brought with her to Meersburg much of her material from home, in order to write it down with an easier hand in a freer atmosphere. So it was that only far from her homeland did she find the leisure and inspiration to complete her Westphalian themes - Haidebilder and Westphälische Schilderungen. Most of her 'typical' Westphalian texts thus developed, not at the pond before the Rüschhaus front door, but far away at the Swabian lake.
"Fürstenhäusle" and break with Schücking
The joint sojourn with Schücking at the Meersburg castle ceased on 2nd April 1842 when he went away to take up a post as a tutor. During the period thereafter Droste-Hülshoff worked on the completion of a new volume of verse. After barely a year's stay in Meersburg, in the summer of 1842 she travelled back home again where the difficult process of correcting, rejecting and revising followed the phase of inspired creativity at Lake Constance. It still took until September 1844 before the new volume of verse was ready. In anticipation of the quite handsome fee that Schücking had negotiated, Droste-Hülshoff bought, by auction in November 1843, the "Fürstenhäusle" which was located among vineyards outside the town walls of Meersburg, thereby becoming a grandiose Grundbesitzerin.
During her second stay at Meersburg (September 1843 - September 1844) a visit by Levin Schücking took place, this time accompanied by his young wife, Louise von Gall. Schücking's marriage had not left Droste-Hülshoff unimpressed - she had often warned him, in her letters, against an impetuous marriage. Although the relationship between Droste-Hülshoff and Schücking now cooled and estrangement set in, he remained an important stimulator and promoter of further literary texts. Whenever he came with a new commission, Droste-Hülshoff accepted it. In spring 1844 she composed almost twenty poems, among which was the poem addressed to the Schückings, Lebt wohl. Droste-Hülshoff and Schücking never saw each other again after this meeting. The final break came when Schücking published the novel Die Ritterbürtigen in which, in Droste-Hülshoff's opinion, he divulged confidential information from the world of the nobility.
In autumn 1844 Droste-Hülshoff left Meersburg and travelled back to Westphalia. Although already seriously weakened by sickness, she was still able to create some literary work. The care of her wet-nurse who had meanwhile moved into the Rüschhaus and died there in 1845, was a burden. Apart from that she lived quietly in the seclusion of Rüschhaus, interrupted only by a visit to Abbenburg in the summer of 1845, where once again at the request of Schücking, a large number of poems was written. At the beginning of 1846 the contact to her old friend Schlüter flickered up again, but the encounter remained forced. Because of her chronic sickness, Droste-Hülshoff was increasingly unable to saddle up her Pegasus. Her literary voice began to dwindle. In autumn 1846 she travelled to Meersburg one last time. She died here in the afternoon of 24th May 1848.
The present fame of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff has its base on Die Judenbuche in particular and also her lyric verse about the natural world, texts with which she reaches far beyond her own times. The authoress once formulated her poetical conception of herself with I do not like and do not want to become famous, but I should like to be read a hundred years from now. Without doubt, she has achieved this.
1797 | January 12 (?)
Birth of Anna Elisabeth (Annette) von Droste-Hülshoff at the moated castle of Hülshoff, Roxel, near Münster. Father: Clemens August von Droste-Hülshoff (1760-1826). Mother: Therese von Droste-Hülshoff neé von Haxthausen (1772-1853). Siblings: Maria Anna (Jenny), later Baroness von Laßberg (1795-1859). Werner (1798-1867). Ferdinand (1800-1829). The wet-nurse, Maria Catharina Plettendorf from Altenberge undertakes the care and upbringing of the sickly, seven-months child.
From summer that year Therese von Droste-Hülshoff undertakes teaching and education of Die Droste and her sister Jenny.
First lyrical attempts. 39 poems are extant, from childish random texts to poems in a 1811 sensitive tradition through to instructive contemplative lyrics among which are Das Lied des Soldaten in der Ferne (1808), Der Abend (1809) and Das Schicksal (1810).
1805 | August-September
First journey to Bökendorf, the seat of relatives on the mother’s side, near the town of Brakel in the Paderborn region.
Lessons given by Bernhard Wenzelo, the priest and steward, since April.
Twenty-two further juvenile poems, mainly influenced by Schiller, or couched in the manner of late Romanticism and Biedermeier - among them Das befreyte Deutschland and Unruhe.
1812 | November 26
First visit to the almost fifty years older university professor Anton Matthias Sprickmann (1749-1833) who remained associated with Droste as her literary correspondent and mentor until 1819.
Working on the tragedy Bertha oder Die Alpen which remained uncompleted.
Becomes acquainted with Catharina Busch, active as a writer, who became the mother of Levin Schücking.
Renewed visit to Bökendorf and surrounding area. Acquaintanceship with Wilhelm Grimm.
1817 | August
Friendship with twenty-five years older Wilhelmine von Thielmann.
The dramatic piece, Scenen aus Hülshoff comes into being.
1818 | January-October
Work on the verse epic Walther. Serious health problems.
Summer sojourn at Bökendorf and surrounding area. Visit to Grimms at Kassel. Acquaintanceship with Amalie Hassenpflug and Jacob Grimm. Encounter in Bökendorf with Heinrich Straube (1794-1847) her uncle August von Haxthausen's fellow student of of nearly the same age, at Göttingen university.
Early spiritual songs, among others Das Morgenrot schwimmt still entlang, Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe.
1819 | April
Straube spends Eastertide at Hülshoff.
A stay at Bökendorf, interrupted by a course of treatment at Bad Driburg (summer) and visits to relatives in Wehrden and Hinnenburg.
Encounter with Straube. Working on the unfinished novel, Ledwina. Occupied with the material until at least 1826.
Work on the first part of Das Geistliche Jahr.
1820 | Summer
Breakdown of relationship with Heinrich Straube as a result of a family intrigue.
Intensive music studies. Settings and compositions. Work on operatic projects Babilon and Der blaue Cherub.
A possible journey into the Sauerland is considered.
1824 | September-November
The journey to the Sauerland.
1825 | October-April 1826
Visits to family and friends in Bonn (Moritz von Haxthausen, Clemens von Droste-Hülshoff and Cologne (Werner von Haxthausen). Strikes up friendship with Sybille Mertens-Schaffhausen whose house is the centre of an arts circle. Acquaintanceship with numerous academics. Leaves Cologne for a visit at Wilhelmine von Thielmann’s (October-December) in Coblenz.
1826 | July 25
Death of her father.
Werner von Droste-Hülshoff assumes possession of the family estate at Haus Hülshoff.
Therese, Jenny and Annette von Droste-Hülshoff move to Haus Rüschhaus at Nienberge, near Münster.
Begins work on verse epic Das Hospiz auf dem großen St. Bernhard
1828 | May
Another visit to Bonn (Moritz von Haxthausen). Meeting with Sybille Mertens-Schaffhausen (Plittersdorf) and Wilhelmine von Thielmann (Bad Godesberg). Acquaintanceship with Johanna and Adele Schopenhauer (perhaps not until 1830/31).
1829 | June 15
Death of her brother Ferdinand. Die Drostte suffers subsequent continuous serious sickness.
Referral to the homeopath Clemens Maria von Bönninghausen. Gradual return to health. Die Droste remained true to homeopathy for the rest of her life.
First drafts for Judenbuche.
1830 |September - June 1831
Third Rhine journey. Staying at Clemens von Droste-Hülshoff’s. Frequent visits to Moritz von Haxthausen's family. Meetings with the acquaintances from previous Rhine stays. Social relations with Adele and Johanna Schopenhauer.
1831 | after June 9
First meeting with Levin Schücking at Rüschhaus.
1833 | January/February
Provisional conclusion of work on Hospiz.
Working on verse epic Des Arztes Vermächtnis (Actual beginning unclear)
1834 | February/March
Beginning of friendship with the philosophy lecturer Christoph Bernhard Schlüter in Münster, in whose house she is subsequently often a guest .
Acquaintance with Wilhelm Junkmann.
Journey in the Netherlands. Stays at Zutphen, Apeldoorn (Palais Het Loo) and Arcen.
First plans for publication of verse epics.
Marriage of Jenny von Droste-Hülshoff to Joseph von Laßberg; they move to Schloß Eppishausen at Erlen in the canton of Thurgau, Switzerland.
Start of work on verse epic Die Schlacht im Loener Bruch.
Journey to Eppishausen with intermediate stay in Bonn.
Excursions in the surrounding area. Revision of the Lochamer Liederbuch., compositions. The poems Schloß Berg, Am Weiher, Der Säntis, Der Graf von Thal, among others, emerge during the stay in Switzerland.
1836 | October 29
Return journey from Eppishausen, at first to Bonn. Staying with Pauline von Droste-Hülshoff. Social relations with acquaintances from previous Rhine sojourns.
Work on verse epic Die Schlacht im Loener Bruch. Revision and completion (by December) of the two other verse epics. Working on opera composition Die Wiedertäufer [The Anabaptists].
Return journey from Bonn to the Rüschhaus with intermediate stay in Cologne.
Concrete planning for the edition of poems of 1838 (together with Schlüter and Junkmann).
First visit to Bökendorf and Abbenburg for seventeen years.
Acquaintanceship with Elise Rüdiger.
Conclusion of Die Schlacht im Loener Bruch.
March - beginning of June
Die Klänge aus dem Orient originates.
April – September
Further stays at Abbenburg and Bökendorf. Frequent visits to relatives. Reunion with Amalie Hassenpflug.
Publication of Gedichte von Annette Elisabeth von D…. H…. by the Münster Aschendorff Verlag.
Der weiße Aar originates (certainly before November 12, 1840).
The cycle Des alten Pfarrers Woche appears in the newspaper "Coelestina" (1839).
End 1838 / Start 1839
Formation of a literary circle around Elise Rüdiger, the so-called Hecken-Schriftsteller-Gesellschaft. Members include Levin Schücking, Lousie von Bornstedt, Wilhelm Junkmann et al. Die Droste, when she happens to be in Münster, takes part in the meetings on Sundays. The acquaintanceship with Schücking deepens, who regularly visits the Rüschhaus.
End 1838 / Start 1839
The Laßberg family moves to Meersburg on Lake Constance.
Resumption of work on Die Judenbuche.
Journey to Abbenburg and Bökendorf. Meeting there with Amalie Hassenpflug. Visits in Kassel, Wehrden and Erpenburg. August. Resumption of work on Das Geistliche Jahr (second part).
Schücking’s regular visits to the Rüschhaus. Occasional visits of Elise Rüdiger.
Provisional conclusion of Das Geistliche Jahr. Ongoing further work on the texts in succeeding years, without the emergence of a final version.
Completion of Die Judenbuche.
September – November
Manuscript of the comedy Perdu! Oder Dichter, Verleger und Blaustrumpfe.
In the course of the year abundant production of ballads. Among others, Der Geyerpfiff, Der Mutter Wiederkehr, Der Graue as well as Das Fräulein Rodenschild, Der Schloßelf, Vorgeschichte (Second sight) for "Das Malerische und romantische Westphalen" (first phase).
1840/41 November – Mai 1841
Collaboration on "Das Malerische und romantische Westphalen" by Levin Schücking and Ferdinand Freiligrath. Die Droste supplies local descriptive prose and ballads.
Die Droste and Schücking resolve to work intensively on their literary projects. Exceedingly abundant production of lyrics by Die Droste, which, according to Schücking, results from a bet between them. Some sixty poems arise, among others, Die Vendetta, Die Vergeltung, Die Schwestern, Der Knabe im Moor, die Zeitbilder, die Haidebilder and also the poems Die Schenke am See, am Thurme, Im Moose, Mein Beruf, Meine Todten, Am Bodensee, Die Taxuswand, Das Spiegelbild, and ***"kein Wort, und wär' es scharf wie Stahles Kinge". Collaboration by die Droste on the first part of Schücking’s novel "Das Stiftsfräulein".
January – May
Second phase of production of ballads for "Das Malerische und romantische Westphalen". Among other works, Die Stiftung Cappenbergs, Das Fegefeuer des westphälischen Adels, Der Tod des Erzbischof Engelbert von Cöln emerge.
Start of work on the Westphalia novel Bei uns zu Lande auf dem Lande.
May – June
Collaboration on Schücking’s "Der Familienschild".
Departure for Meersburg (arrival September 30). Social relations with friends of the von Laßberg family from Meersburg and surrounding area. Excursions in the surrounding region, including Konstanz, Heiligenberg, Birnau, Hersberg, Langenargen.
Schücking’s arrival at Meersburg, who is engaged as the librarian there. Schücking’s and Die Droste’s frequent extended walks at Lake Constance.
February – September
In all, seven of the newly completed poems appear in the Cottaschen "Morgenblatt" through the good offices of Schücking.
Schücking's departure from Meersburg. An intensive correspondence follows.
Die Judenbuche; Ein Sittengemälde aus dem gebirgigten Westfalen appears in the Cottaschen "Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser"
Westphälische Schilderungen aus einer westphälischen Feder written in support of Schücking who had accepted an essay about Westphalia for a compilation.
Departure from Meersburg
Arrival at the Rüschhaus after an intermediate stay in Bonn
August - December
Der spiritus familiaris des Roßtäuschers emerges.
Continuing work on preparation of the edition of poetry of 1844. Copies and a few new poems. Sustained discussions about choice of publishing house.
Frequent serious sicknesses during the year.
June – August
Family visit at Abbenburg. Journey to Wehrden, Corvey, Epernberg and Heesen.
September 20 (?)
Departure for second visit to Meersburg (Arrival on October 3).
At an auction, bought the Fürstenhäusle together with the vine-trellis
Completion of copies for the poetry edition of 1844.
Consignment to Schücking of the manuscript for the poetry edition of 1844.
Acquaintanceship with Philippa Pearsal.
Six poems composed for an almanac of the Muses planned by Schücking and Geibel, among which are Gemüth, Mondesaufgang, Sylvesterabend and Der sterbende General.
Ten to twelve poems composed, intended for publication in the "Morgenblatt", among which are Das ich der Mittelpunkt der Welt, Spätes Erwachen, die todte Lerche, Lebt wohl (all appear in August) as well as Der Dichter – Dichters Glück and An einen Freund "Zum zweyten Mahle will ein Wort".
May 6 – 30
Visit of Schückings, the married couple, to Meersburg.
June – September
The poems Grüße and Im Grase composed.
September 14 (?)
The poems, Gedichte von Annette Freiin von Droste-Hülshoff, published by the Cotta-Verlag (Stuttgart, Tübingen).
Return journey from Meersburg to Rüschhaus (arrival September 26).
Work on crime story, Joseph (until at least May 1845).
Continuing deterioration of health. Estrangement from Schücking.
Wet-nurse Catharina Plettendorf dies at the Rüschhaus.
Up to this point, the poems Das Bild, Das erste Gedicht, Durchwachte Nacht, are composed.
The cycle, Volksglauben in den Pyrenäen, is composed.
Das Wort composed.
May 20 - October 2
A stay at Abbenburg. The so-called Abbenburger poems (Gastrecht, Auch ein Beruf, Carpe Diem, Unter der Linde, Das verlorene Paradies, Gethsemane) composed at Schücking's urging, who had assumed responsibilty for the "Rheinisches Jahrbuch" (Cologne 1846). Further deterioration of health.
October 1 – November 1
Westphälische Schilderungen aus einer westphälischen Feder appears in the "Historisch–politische Blätter für das katholische Deutschland". (Ed. Guido Gorres).
Abandonment of further publications in newspapers at urging of the family.
Severe weakening of health. Continuous treatment by Bönninghausen.
Renewal of friendship with Schlüter.
Final break with Schücking after reading his novel, "Die Ritterbürtigen".
An einem Tag wo feucht der Wind composed at Schlüter's behest.
Despite health problems, start of her journey to Meersburg. After an intermediate stay of some fourteen days in Bonn (at Pauline von Droste-Hülshoff’s) onward journey to Meersburg September 28. Arrival in Meersburg.
Gradual recovery there. Visits by Philippa Pearsal.
Persistent debility interrupted by a few brief phases of improvement.
Writing of will.
Auf hohem Felsen lieg ich hier and Als diese Lieder ich vereint composed.
Improved state of health.
Renewed deterioration of health.
Death of the authoress.
Interment at the Meersburg cemetery.
Annette von Droste-Hülshoff was born January 12, 1797 at the moated castle of Hülshof near Münster as the second of four children of a respected family. Both parents, Clemens August von Droste-Hülshoff and Therese Luise, neé von Haxthausen, were of long established Westphalian noble lineages. The nobility was decisively involved in the country’s politico-ecclesiastical governing for many generations and occupied a position no less influential than privileged. In the wake of the "French Revolution", however, the political order of affairs of the ecclesiastical principalities in Germany towards the end of the century had long begun to crumble. The "old empire" was facing disintegration. The period into which Annette von Droste-Hülshoff was born became an era of great political and social changes which were to bring serious implications for all walks of life.
In the year of Droste's birth - 1797 - the old order still held sway. The "Bishopric of Münster" as ecclesiastical territory, was subject to the Prince-Bishop who was at once Elector and Archbishop of Cologne. Nevertheless, ecclesiastical principalities had long been regarded by their critics as backward and in need of reform and changes were inevitable. In the 1790s French revolutionary struggles and, later, the Napoleonic wars, spread across Europe and French supremacy led to a new order of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1802 in the course of this process, dissolution of the ecclesiastical principalities followed. The Münster Prince-Bishopric was secularised in 1802 and large parts of Westphalia were ceded to Prussia whose sovereignty, however, lasted only four years. After Prussia's military collapse in 1806, the French assumed power over the Prussian provinces lying to the west of the Elbe, under the Treaty of Tilsit of 1807. These provinces, together with Electoral Hesse, Hanover and Brunswick formed the French kingdom of Westphalia, ruled by King Jérome. Six years later the Wars of Liberation put an end to the kingdom and in 1814/15 a extensive new order for Europe arose through the Congress of Vienna, with the restoration of Prussia as a great power. Prussia was thus able to reassert its power over Westphalia again. The phase between 1815 and 1848 was marked by a rigid Prussian restoration policy. The aims of ensuring the restored pre-revolution political and social order and in the fight against all national, liberal and revolutionary aspirations, accorded entirely with the intention of Metternich, the reactionary Austrian State Chancellor. Instead of a promised collective parliament, only provincial estates met together, under the law of 1823 in which the land-owning nobility predominated. Despite this background of restoration, far reaching reforms changed the social framework lastingly. Among others, the Prussian army reform with the introduction of general conscription and the reform on self administrative bodies, the Stein municipal reform and reform of the education system, may be mentioned here. In particular, a liberal line was taken in the field of economics. The domestic market was opened up by the customs law of 1818 and German unification under Prussia's leadership in the economic field was prepared by the establishment of the German Customs Union (1828-1834). Yet the more Prussia refused to have anything to do with liberal and national tendencies and sought to impede them through press censorship and "persecution of demagogues", the greater became the tensions between the middle classes and the monarchy. As concession Friedrich Wilhelm IV called all provincial estates to a United Provincial Diet in 1847. Finally, the hope that the strong antagonism of the forces of those supporting the politics with a world-outlook would give way to conversion to political and social relationships in the sense of middleclass-liberal politics, combined with the March Revolution of 1848 - a hope that, of course, remained largely unfulfilled. Political developments in the first half of the 19th century had grave consequences for the Westphalian nobility. Where, within the old order they had been the socially and politically dominant force until 1802, under secularisation they now lost not only church offices, incomes and opportunities of subsistence, but also political importance and the exercise of influence in a drastic manner. Even after 1815 as pre-Napoleonic conditions of sovereignty were restored, the nobility could not recover its old position. Dynamic processes of upheaval and the change had seized wide areas of society and could no longer be made reversible. The nobility indeed stayed as a privileged ruling class, but because of the economic and social rise of middleclass groups and as a consequence of the reform of the agrarian constitution (liberation of peasant farmers) came und more and more pressure. Incisive changes also affected economic-political relations and as a consequence those of society, too. While trade and manufacturing were drawn into lasting crisis because of the introduction of free trade, the industrial revolution that was setting in the 1830s led to further strengthening of the economically successful middle class. Social contrasts increased at the same time. Poverty and hunger increased among the lower classes and cases of pauperisation were brought. The first half of the 19th century was an era of great upheaval. Society lived through many layered and fundamental transformation processes. Battles of opinion came to a head especially in the Vormärz period which preceded the 1848 revolution. Ideological, attitudinal changes took place parallel to those of a social nature. Guardians of time honoured practice clashed with moderate liberal and increasingly democratic positions according to which constitutional monarchy and German unity were to be aspired to. Thus the old thought-structures were increasingly losing their strength of conviction and becoming fragile. It is true that one was spared these developments for longer in Münsterland than elsewhere. Westphalia counted as backward and certainly was. It was only after delay that many innovations bore fruit here. Annette von Droste repeatedly claimed that this backwardness in development was a fortunate state of affairs, compared with other regions. As a convinced advocate of restoration, she held Westphalia to be "a strange, slumbering land" which was "on the way to ruin" and "a hundred years behind the times". The authoress in no way lived that much withdrawn and detached from the world as is often claimed.
Because of her extensive reading, her daily interest in political affairs, her journeys and contacts, she faced her times in lively discourse and the ever wider far reaching social changes as an accurate observe and critical mind. Taken all round, her attitude is marked by great insecurity which, in many ways, became written into her work. Her conservative-restorative view of the world is an own deep seated scepticism towards the processes of upheaval and modernisation.
Münster and Westphalia at the Time of the Restoration
Talk is of an agreed backwardness in particular also in relation to the development of art and culture in Westphalia. Here, too, the region enjoyed no good reputation; rather was it described as backwoodsman-like. Away from cultural centres and literary strongholds, Westphalians had become the target for mockery and (literary) disparagement.
As examples, Voltaire's Candide (1759) or Justus Gruner's Meine Wallfahrt zur Ruhe und Hoffnung, oder Schilderung des sittlichen und bürgerlichen Zustands Westfalens, am Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts (1802/03) may be mentioned, writings which took Westphalian backwardness severely to task. To be sure, the intellectual-cultural climate in the city of Münster had improved significantly since the times of the enlightened minister, Franz von Fürstenberg. He had founded the first Westphalian university in 1773 and endowed a chair for "German style and German language". Lawyer and author Anton Mathias Sprickmann was commissioned to promote theatre life and in 1775 the Münstersche Bühne opened. The so-called "familia sacra", a circle of scholars, philosophers and clerics, formed around Princess Gallitzin from 1779 onwards, which strove for religious revival in the sense of sensitiveness. Münster became increasingly recognised in Germany’s intellectual world, such that poets like Hamann or Goethe paid their visits to the city. Münster was now no longer a white patch on Germany's cultural map.
During Münster's time as a provincial capital, the large number of Prussian officials also ensured increasing animation. Besides, the nobility stayed in the city courts and dwellings during the winter months, so that a lively social and cultural life developed. People met in clubs or at visits to concerts. Münster had long been an important musical centre. It seems that the von Droste-Hülshoff family did not participate all too often in social life in Münster, although they a first possessed their own town-house on the Krummen Timpen. Here, and in various town dwellings that man later rented, they stayed in the summer months at longer intervals, in order to keep up contacts and take part in the cultural life of the city. This included visits to theatres and concerts and also using a lending library or - in the case of die Droste herself - participation in literary private parties.
Droste in the Context of the Era
Attempts to assign a particular designation of an era to the work of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff again and again shown themselves to be problematic. The most varied catchwords have been named; talk is of Biedermeier, Restoration, Romanticism, also of Vormärz, Realism or even Naturalism. The difficulty of resolving upon any unequivocal assignment results, on the one hand, from the stratification of the Droste work, on the other, from the dubiousness of definitions of eras. Where Biedermeier, Romanticism and Realism refer primarily to literary history, the term Restoration is understood in the context of historical-political assignment. The case with "Vormärz" is rather more ambivalent. This designation stands both for a literature historical phase and for a political-historical phase. The historical phase between 1815 and 1848 is, generally speaking, designated as the time of Restoration. It does not consist only of restoration aspirations, but is equally marked by liberal and revolutionary tendencies. The structures of the eras will be appropriately worked out only from the convergence and the divergence of all the various forces and schools of thought. The term era is characterised by the dialectics of revolution and restoration. The term "Biedermeier" stands for the cultural historical development which corresponds to the process of restoration. In the literary context, Biedermeier, as a designation for an era between the Classical period and Realism comprises the years from 1815 to 1848. However, it is also seen by some as a development phase of Romanticism. After 1830, the time of the French June Revolution, a pause in the continuum of the era is revealed. The ever more robustly emergent pre-revolutionary tendencies of the subsequent years are designated as "Vormärz" both in the political and also the literary context. During this period, firmly politically articulate literature with liberal and revolutionary conten t was gaining greater influence (Heine, Börne, Gutzkow, Freiligrath, Grabbe, et al) for the writers’ group established in 1830, commonly named "Junges Deutschland".
As ever, uncritical assigning of die Droste to the Biedermeier era is widespread even today, and it also used to be applied to other domains of life, such as dress, furnishing and arts and crafts. The notions of frankness, restfulness and bourgeois narrow-mindeness – apart from that, a tendency towards sentimentality and effusiveness as well as a love of the idyllic are associated with the Biedermeier period.
After the chaos of the Napoleonic wars, people were glad of the restitution of the old conditions into which, tired of fighting, one looked forward to settling. As a slogan for a literature movement during the period 1815 to 1848, Biedermeier stands for poetical works of an a-political, sooner private, closely-bound-to-the-soil, melancholic-contemplative style which leaned towards Nature and the everyday world and turned away from social reality. Like die Droste, who has often been (mis)interpreted as a sentimental vernacular poet, others, such as Eduard Mörike, Adalbert Stifter and Franz Grillparzer have been ranked among this movement, too. However, in the case of die Droste, such a one-sided assignment is more than ever questionable. Today, the "modern" aspects of her work are increasingly being emphasised and intensely realistic, indeed, even naturalistic and expressionistic features in her style of writing pointed out. Not only do backgrounds full of conflict hide behind harmonic surfaces in the foreground, but deep insecurity and threat, breaks and fissures, decay and the morbid in her texts often confront the reader. In many of her texts, often arising from a regional context, die Droste breaks with the literature of her time. Her writing is scarcely that of the one-day-or-another affirmative, Biedermeier-idyllic type that enjoyed a boom in thode days. She is not concerned with glorifying the homeland, or for popular representations of morals and customs – she thematises the endangerment of, the threat to and loss of the homeland. In her portrayals of Nature she brings into view the ambiguous, the immanently evil, the threat to the idyll, the destruction and decomposition. We find no clichés and ready-made judgements, rather, individual observations and experiences which are fed from her poetological programme of a 'true to nature' re-creation of reality. And even when die Droste conjures up the putative safe and sound world of the past, then, above all, she does so to hold up a mirror to the present and never without an understanding of the irreversibilty of historical development.
Dr. Jochen Grywatsch
Tel.: 0251 / 591-4681
LWL-Literaturkommission für Westfalen
Salzstr. 38 – Erbdrostenhof
48143 Münster / Germany
(Oben) Droste-Tage, © Claudia Ehlert