Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.03.04


William Musgrave Calder III (ed.), Further letters of Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, prepared for publication by Stephen Trzaskoma. Hildesheim: Weidmannsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1994. Pp. xii + 261. DM68. ISBN 3-615-00099-4.


Reviewed by Bernhard Kytzler, University of Natal (Durban).

In his Epilogue to "Usener und Wilamowitz. Ein Briefwechsel, 1870-1905" (B. G. Teubner, Stuttgart und Leipzig reprint 1994, 1.ed.1934), p. 70 Calder III writes: "Editions of sources last. Biographies must be rewritten every generation." Faithful to this Credo, he has investigated the traces of Wilamowitz's correspondence all over Europe. Thanks to his tireless efforts, the figure of this great German scholar (1848-1931) has won a precise profile. Calder constantly comments in detail on the texts he has discovered; over the years he has accumulated a wealth of letters documenting every phase of his hero's life and many fascinating details concerning his works as well as his personal decisions, his predilections and prejudices.

Calder's editiones principes are scattered widely in various journals; fortunately he makes them easily available to the scholarly world in books which collect a good number of them. After his former publications (Selected Correspondence, Antiqua 23 and 27, Napoli 1983 and 1984) his new book brings us twenty such publications which came out during the last decade. To be precise, one of them is a new edition (Nr. 7) "Wilamowitz' Damnatio of Bacchylides: Wissenschaftlergeschichte als Wissenschaftsgeschichte" (pp. 75-79). The short presentation introduces the reader to two documents of the Special Collection at the University of Goettingen Library: a letter of Wilamowitz of 19 XII 1897 to Kaibel and a postcard of 27 XII 1897 from Hermann Diels (1848-1922) to Theodor Gomperz (1832-1912). Both texts discuss the disappointment of their authors regarding the newly discovered poetry of Bacchylides; both texts show how a parallel drawn with Pindar's poetry conditions the judgement on the new dithyrambs to the negative. That such a "schnelles Urteil" (Herwig Maehler, "Die Lieder des Bakchylides, Erster Teil", Mnemosyne Suppl. 62, Leiden 1982, p. X) overshadows almost a century, is a warning that cannot be taken seriously enough.

Among the other nineteen pieces assembled here, the reader encounters all the great names of Altertumswissenschaft. Wilamowitz writes to them or about them, frankly and by no means holding back his sentiments. The parade is impressive: Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker, Friedrich Leo, Eduard Meyer, Wilhelm Dilthey, Georg Misch, Theodor Mommsen, Martin P. Nilsson, Max Pohlenz, Eduard Schwartz, Michail I. Rostovzev, Hermann Sauppe et al. This panorama is indeed wide and stimulating. Whoever is interested in Geistes-, Kultur-, Mentalitätsgeschichte, will be richly rewarded when reading this book.

In his preface Calder states that "the texts here replace the earlier editions" and that they "are not merely reproduced but provided with improved editions". However, the human conditions allows for no perfection. Here and there there are minor misprints: p. 76 "Similar cases exist due other great scholars." makes no sense; p. 113 "Wilamowitz is far more an historian that what American classicists call 'a literary critic.'" should surely read "than" instead of "that". I wonder if p 66 "wo man darin ganz war" should not read "wo man darin gross war". p. 26 "liebenswürdige" must read "liebenswürdigen", and ibid. "durch rein geistige Sphäre" probably is "durch die rein geistige Sphäre". Maybe more misleading is p. 23 where in Nr. 8 the Dahlem Address of the correspondent Friedlaender is attributed to Wilamowitz himself.

Instead of collecting such marginal misprints attention might be drawn to a lack of balance in the commentary: many of these letters abound with quotations from von Goethe's poetry; some of these are pointed out to the reader (cf. e.g. p. 16 ann. 43; p. 102; 126), some not: p. 69 "Erdenrest, zu tragen peinlich" stems verbatim from Faust II, Finale, chorus of the vollendeteren Engel: Uns bleibt ein Erdenrest / Zu tragen peinlich; p. 114 "Zwei Seelen rangen in seiner Brust unaufhörlich miteinander" is based on Faust I, 'Vor dem Tore': "Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach, in meiner Brust"; p. 12 "streift er in der Umgebung umher, durch Wald und Feld" is modelled after the beginning of von Goethe's poem Der Musensohn: "Durch Feld und Wald zu schweifen". I wish, a Goethe expert would read the epistles, investigate the quotations and allusions and interpret them for us.

In conclusion, the Eva Sachs case must be remembered (nr. 18, p. 207-221); the fatal attraction of the brilliant female student, an Icarus too near to the sun, the "Wickinger" Wilamowitz. This, I think, is the most moving piece of the collection. Surely one could feel otherwise and rate other items to be more important: the "Creed against Creed" correspondence with Eduard Meyer, the "Instinct against Proof" controversy with Nilsson for instance. But we have here both Wissenschaftsgeschichte and Wissenschaftlergeschichte. To end with a utopian dream: could we perhaps, as a supplement to the Index Locorum Antiquorum and the Index Personarum, be given an Index Rerum Memorabilium, from angst and arrogance to Zweifel, from Abhängigkeitsverhaeltnis to Zusammenarbeit, from Arbeitsethos to Zerrissenheit? May the day come!