Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

New Light on the Bardach Diary: Eight Unpublished Letters from Ibsen's Gossensass Princess

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

New Light on the Bardach Diary: Eight Unpublished Letters from Ibsen's Gossensass Princess

Article excerpt

In 1908, American writer Basil King and his family spent the winter in Munich at the Hotel Continental, a quiet, luxurious establishment serving an international clientele of aristocrats and other people of means. It was there that King met and became the confidante of the elegant, soft-spoken, and multi-lingual Emilie Bardach, Ibsen's famous "princess" of the 1889 Gossensass summer. Six years later, the Great War caught Bardach in Bern, ending the leisured existence she led on her inherited wealth, and when the money arriving from Vienna became virtually worthless, she asked King to find a buyer for Ibsen's letters to her. When he was unable to do so, he published a two part article in The Century Magazine called "Ibsen and Emilie Bardach" that claimed to feature excerpts from her diary of 1889-go, md for which Bardach received an honorarium of $1000.00.(1) King writes that the article, on which Bardach collaborated, both by letter and word of mouth" and which was based on a diary she had 'placed in my hands" (1:803), would bring to light the Gossensass idyll between the playwright wright and the Viennese socialite.(2) In 1928, five years after the King/ Bardach article appeared, Bardach came across an essay in the Mercure de France, "Un Amour du Vieil Ibsen" [A Love of the Old Ibsen], by the French writer and artist Andre Rouveyre, in which Rouveyre introduced to the French public the relation between Bardach and Ibsen.(3) Still eager to sell Ibsen's letters, Bardach wrote to Rouveyre, who asked her to write a memoir of the Gossensass summer for the Mercure. She agreed to do so, and the resulting essay, published in Rouveyre's article "Le Memorial Inedit d'une Amie d'Ibsen" [The Unpublished Memoir of a Woman Friend of Ibsen] contains material in such direct conflict with the King narrative that it casts serious doubt on the authenticity of both documents.4 More importantly, eight hitherto unpublished letters from Bardach to Rouveyre establish beyond doubt Bardach's unreliability as a memorialist and prove that what Hans Lampl presented to the world in 1977 as her original diary is nothing of the kind.

THE MEMOIR IN THE MERCURE VERSUS THE KING/BARDACH Account

Bardach's three-page memoir is a rambling, sentimental narrative that moves from the furies of destiny that have faded my memory' ("Le Memorial" 262), to the nature of the Tyrolean peasant, to the charm of old Gossensass, and, finally, to some brief remarks on her relation with Ibsen: he stared at her unceasingly before they finally met, he gave sitting over his beer because she found this habit vulgar, and he allowed her to open his telegrams, calling her his collaborator' 263). The main interest of Bardach's memoir is that it contains an account of her meeting with Ibsen that is completely different from the account she gave King. According to the King/bardach narrative, Ibsen and Bardach met after the Ibsen Festival, an annual affair honoring Gossensass's most famous summer resident. Ibsen went for a walk "in the Pflerschthal, a valley on the outskirts of the town, with a stream flowing through it, and a view of mountains and glaciers. Here he saw a girl with a book seated on a bench" (King 1:808). Bardach answered Ibsen's look with a little smile" and they had their first conversation (810). In her memoir in Rouveyre's article, Bardach writes: "Our acquaintance began at the end of the Ibsen Festival. I think there was an inauguration of a bust of him. It [the festival] ended with a concert, at the end of which he was surrounded by all the participants. It was then that one of our good friends, Miss Cranach, pointed me out to him in these words: M is the little Bardach girl." Then he came up to me, raising his glass and we spoke together for the first time ("Le Memorial" 263). Since Bardach gave a similar version of her meeting with Ibsen in a brief, uninformative article she wrote a year after Ibsen's death,(5) it seems probable that this account is the accurate one, and that in 1923, thirty-four years after the fact, she confused her initial meeting with Ibsen with a later encounter. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.