Stefan George (1868-1933) was a German poet, philosopher, editor, and head of the Georgekreis (George Circle), an influential group of German academics and thinkers in the first decades of the 20th century. The Stefan George letters to Ernst Morwitz are comprised of approximately 240 communications from George to Morwitz, one of his most devoted confidants (1905-1933). Also present is Morwitz’s annotated letter book and several manuscript poems.
Biographical/historical: German poet, philosopher, editor, and translator Stefan George (1868-1933) was born to wine merchant Stefan George and Eva Schmitt near Bingen, Germany. In 1888, while traveling throughout Europe, George met the symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé in Paris. Inspired by the meeting, George began publishing his own poetry, and by 1899 had established himself as an important poet. He founded and edited the influential literary magazine Blätter für die Kunst, which he published between 1892 and 1919. George lived an itinerant life throughout his adulthood, staying at the homes of friends throughout Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and France. During the First World War, George became more critical of society and his poems became political in nature, particularly his 1917 collection Der Krieg ("The War") and his 1928 collection Das neue Reich ("The New Empire"). Although his poetry’s themes and his philosophies appealed to German nationalists in the early 1930s, George withheld his explicit support of the Nazi government and rejected several offers from them for state honors. George died in Locarno, Switzerland in 1933.
George attracted a group of fellow poets and academics, called the Georgekreis (the George Circle). In their time, they dominated the fields of literature, history, psychology, and economics in German universities. In the first decades of the 20th century, George’s circle changed from a group of fellow intellectuals into a clan of devoted disciples that referred to George as their "master." Circle members included Robert Boehringer (1884-1974), Friedrich Gundolf (1880-1931), Max Kommerell (1902-1944), and Karl Wolfskehl (1869-1948). The group was notoriously secretive and protective of their master.
German writer, lawyer, and scholar Ernst Morwitz (1887-1971), a devoted disciple of George, was born in Danzig Germany, to Rosalie Aronsohn and Jewish merchant Wilhelm Morwitz. He studied law in Freiburg, Heidelberg, and Berlin, finally earning a degree in 1910. In 1905, Morwitz befriended Stefan George, and in 1911 published several poems in George’s journal Blätter für die Kunst. Morwitz served as a paramedic during the First World War and after the war worked as a district judge in Fürstenwalde and a lawyer in Berlin. Morwitz maintained close communications with George over the next decade, and even represented George in legal capacities. After George’s death in 1933, Morwitz published Das Werk Die Dichtung Stefan Georges (1934). Morwitz fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and emigrated to the America, where he taught German in the United States Army. After the war, Morwitz secured a post at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Germanic Languages department. Morwitz remained devoted to George and published several volumes on the master, including the first English edition of George’s poetry (1943), and, with the help of Carol North Valhope, a comprehensive collection of George’s works in America (1949). Eventually, Morwitz returned to Europe as editor of the Amsterdam literary magazine Castrum Peregrini. He died in Muralto, Switzerland, in 1971, and left his papers and library to long-time friend Dietrich von Bothmer (1918-2009).
Content: The Stefan George letters to Ernst Morwitz consist of approximately 240 communications from George to Morwitz, one of George's most devoted confidants. The collection also contains various manuscript poems by George, and Morwitz’s annotated letter book created in 1955 and 1956. These papers offer insight into George’s thoughts, artistic achievements, travels, and other activities during the final 30 years of his life. The correspondence is organized chronologically with the writings and letter book ordered at the end of the collection.