Rahel Levin Varnhagen: The Life and Work of a German Jewish Intellectual

By Heidi Thomann Tewarson | Go to book overview

2
THE EARLY LETTERS

From the very beginning, Rahel showed herself to be a very diligent and eager correspondent. Writing was for her a serious intellectual activity, demanding concentration and quiet surroundings. For women, these were luxuries they could rarely count on. Not surprisingly, Rahel's letters are replete with complaints about interruptions. Other difficulties impeding a smooth writing process were the lack of a properly prepared quill -- in one letter she writes of making do with a piece of wood -- poor quality paper, or the challenge of fashioning an envelope. Nonetheless, she often managed to write several long letters in one day. At other times, the writing process was extended over several days.

Rahel's correspondence during this early period falls into several groups. The most outstanding and encompassing epistolary exchange is undoubtedly that with David Veit. Additionally, Rahel exchanged letters with many of the frequenters of her salon, among them Gustav von Brinckmann, Prince Louis Ferdinand, and Friedrich Gentz, thus laying the foundation for her far-reaching correspondences with notable persons. Family letters constitute another important group, as do those she exchanged with her women friends. And finally, there were the love letters. The following discussion will take up each of these groups separately.


RAHEL AND DAVID VEIT

The correspondence between Rahel and David Veit is for several reasons especially instructive. Although it was not published until 1861, recent studies have shown that Rahel herself prepared it for future publication, just as she had the Buch des Andenkens. It follows a different conception from the latter, however, in that Rahel decided to include both sides of

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Rahel Levin Varnhagen: The Life and Work of a German Jewish Intellectual
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Note on the Translations x
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Beginnings 17
  • 2 - The Early Letters 53
  • 3 - Hopes Betrayed 91
  • 4 - Madame Varnhagen Von Ense 139
  • 5 - Return to Berlin: the Salon Varnhagen 179
  • Notes 227
  • Index 255
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