Herzog Bernhard Von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach: Das Tagebuch der Reise Durch Nord-Amerika in Den Jahren 1825 Und 1826

By Maierhofer, Waltraud | Goethe Yearbook, January 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

Herzog Bernhard Von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach: Das Tagebuch der Reise Durch Nord-Amerika in Den Jahren 1825 Und 1826


Maierhofer, Waltraud, Goethe Yearbook


Walter Hinderer and Alexander Rosenbaum, eds. Herzog Bernhard von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach: Das Tagebuch der Reise durch Nord-Amerika in den Jahren 1825 und 1826. Stiftung für Romantikforschung LX. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2017. 912 pp.

What was life in the United States like in the 1820s? A keen observer at the time compared the area around the Capitol in Washington DC with the vegetable fields surrounding Weimar and pondered: "Der Plan nach welchem Washington angelegt werden soll ist coloßal und wird nie ausgeführt werden; nach ihm könnte es eine Bevölkerung von einer Million Menschen faßen, während es jetzt gegen 13000 nur enthalten soll und schwerlich mehr bekommen wird." (300; November 2, 1825; Italics here and throughout are original.)

We now have a splendid edition of one of the most detailed, visually minded and multiperspective accounts of North America in the early nineteenth century. Bernhard von Weimar (1792-1862), second son of Carl August Duke of SaxeWeimar and officer in the Dutch army-who had fought in the Battle of Waterloo and, after the Congress of Vienna, became colonel of a regiment in the service of the Dutch king-had long wished to travel to the country of which Goethe famously wrote in Zahme Xenien, "Amerika, du hast es besser / Als unser Continent, das alte, / Hast keine verfallene Schlösser / Und keine Basalte." He does find "ein sonderbares Stück Basalt, einem Menschenprofil ähnlich" on one of his first days in Boston (117; July 31, 1825). He notes in his entry dated July 26, 1825 about approaching Boston, that his arrival in the United States-he abbreviates "V St."-was one of the favorite memories of his life, and full of enthusiasm he calls the fight for independence "[die] heilsamste[] Revolution die je gewesen war" (121). He shares Goethe's sentiment when, about to depart, he names the United States "dieses glückliche Land" and Europe "veraltet[] und morsch[]" (628; June 16, 1826). He felt proud about covering "eine Distanz von 7135 Meilen" (630) and meeting his goal of careful reporting.

On most days of his sojourn in the US from July 1825 to June 1826, Prince Bernhard must have spent several hours with pen and paper. He filled more than a thousand pages with his observations and reflections, with his own family and Goethe's circle in mind, and he also added many drawings and sketches. The original manuscript, bound in two volumes, and extant only at the Hauptstaatsarchiv Weimar, has now been meticulously edited and combined with the concluding travelogue from Gent to Saxony, a list of drawings and other addenda, such as community constitutions and maps, and letters by Bernhard, Carl August, and Goethe. The edition is obviously the result of a multiyear labor of love by eminent Goethezeit scholar Walter Hinderer and art historian Alexander Rosenbaum, an expert on scholarly editions with the Klassik Stiftung Weimar (since 2010, formerly Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv Weimar). The volume is enriched by two very readable and insightful articles on the genre of the travelogue and its history of publication (Rosenbaum, "Privates Journal und literarischer Reisebericht-Zur Geschichte der Veröffentlichung von Herzog Bernhards Amerika-Tagebuch") and on Bernhard's journey (Hinderer, "Die Amerikareise Herzog Bernhards von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach"). The new edition contains a useful chronology, bibliography, biographical outline, indices for names and geographical items, as well as many illustrations, including three portraits. Upon Goethe's commendation, the travelogue was heavily edited and first published by the historian Heinrich Luden as Reise sr. …

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