Storm, (Hans) Theodor (Woldsen)

views updated

STORM, (Hans) Theodor (Woldsen)

Nationality: German. Born: Husum, Schleswig-Holstein, 14 September 1817. Education: Local schools and the Gymnasium, Lübock; studied law at Kiel University, 1837-42. Family: Married 1) Constanze Esmarch in 1846 (died 1865), seven children; 2) Dorothea Jensen in 1866, one child. Career: Set up legal practice in Husum, 1843-53; forced into exile in Potsdam in 1853 after the Danish occupation; assignment, Prussian civil service, Potsdam, 1853-56; magistrate, Heiligenstadt, 1856; chief legal and administration officer, 1864 and chief judge, 1874, Husum. Died: 4 July 1888.



Gedichte, edited by Hans Heitmann. 1943.

Sämtliche Werke, edited by Peter Goldammer. 4 vols., 1956; 4th edition, 1982.

Werke, edited by Gottfried Honnefelder. 2 vols., 1975.

Sämtliche Werke, edited by Karl Ernst Laage and Dieter Lohmeier.4 vols., 1987-88.

Short Stories and Novellas

Immensee. 1851; as Immensee, 1863; as Immen Lake, 1881.

Ein Grünes Blatt (stories). 1855.

Auf dem Staatshof. 1859.

In der Sommer-Mondnacht (stories). 1860.

Drei Novellen. 1861.

Im Schloss. 1863.

Auf der Universität. 1863; as Lenore, 1865.

Zwei Weihnachtsidyllen (stories). 1865.

Drei Märchen. 1866; as Geschichten aus der Tonne, 2nd edition, 1873.

Pole Poppenspäler and Waldwinkel. 1875.

Viola tricolor. 1874; translated as Viola Tricolor, 1956.

Psyche. 1876.

Aquis submersus. 1877; translated as Aquis Submersus, 1910; asBeneath the Flood, 1962.

Renate. 1878; translated as Renate, 1909.

Carsten Curator. 1878; translated as Carsten Curator, 1956.

Eekenhof, with Im Brauer-Hause. 1880; translated as Eekenhof, 1905.

Die Söhne des Senators, with Der Herr Etatsrath. 1881; Die Söhne des Senators, as The Senator's Sons, 1947.

Schweigen. 1883.

Zwei Novellen. 1883.

Hans und Heinz Kirch. 1883.

Zur Chronik von Grieshuus. 1884; as A Chapter in the History of Greishuus, 1905.

Ein Fest auf Haderslevhuus, with John Riew. 1885; as A Festival at Haderslevhuus, 1909.

Bötjer Basch. 1887.

Ein Doppelgänger. 1887.

Bei kleinen Leuten (stories). 1887.

Der Schimmelreiter. 1888; as The Rider on the White Horse, 1915; as The White Horseman, 1962; as The White Horse Rider, 1966.

Gesammelte Schriften. 10 vols., 1877-89.


Im Sonnenschein. 1854.

Hinzelmeier. 1857.

Eine Malerarbeit. 1867.

Von Jenseit des Meeres. 1867.

In St. Jürgen. 1868.

Zerstreute Kapitel. 1873.

Ein stiller Musikant. 1875.

Zur Wald-und-Wasserfreude. 1880.

Vor Zeiten 1886.

Ein Bekenntniss. 1887.

Es waren zwei Königskinder. 1888.


Liederbuch dreier Freunde. 1843.

Gedichte. 1852; revised edition, 1856.


Der Briefwechsel zwischen Storm und Gottfried Keller, edited by Albert Köster. 1904.

Briefe an Friedrich Eggers, edited by Hans Wolfgang Seidel. 1911.

Briefe, edited by Gertrud Storm. 4 vols., 1915-17.

Briefweschel zwischen Storm und Eduard Mörike, edited by HannsWolfgang Rath. 1919.

Storms Briefe an seinen Freund George Lorenzen 1876 bis 1882, edited by C. Höfer. 1923.

Blätter der Freundschaft. Aus dem Briefwechsel zwischen Storm und Ludwig Pietsch, edited by V. Pauls. 1939; revised edition, 1943.

Storm als Erzieher. Seine Briefe an Ada Christen, edited by O. Katann. 1948.

Garten meiner Jugend (autobiography), edited by Frank Schnass. 1950.

Der Weg wie weit (autobiography), edited by Frank Schnass. 1951.

Bittersüsser Lebenstrank (autobiography), edited by FrankSchnass. 1952.

Der Briefwechsel zwischen Storm und Gottfried Keller, edited by Peter Goldammer. 1960.

Storms Briefwechsel mit Theodor Mommsen, edited by H. E. Teitge. 1966.

Storm und Iwan Turgenjew. Persönlichkeit und literarische Beziehungen, Einflüsse, Briefe, Bilder, edited by K. E. Laage. 1967.

StormEmil Kuh, Briefweschel, edited by E. Streitfeld. 1985.

Editor, Deutscher Liebeslieder seit Johann Christian Guenther eine Codification. 1859.

Editor, Hausbuch aus deutschen Dichtern seit Claudius eine kritische Anthologie. 1870.


Critical Studies:

Studies in Storm by Elmer O. Wooley, 1943; Storm's Craft of Fiction: The Torment of a Narrator by Clifford A. Bernd, 1963; The Theme of Loneliness in Storm's Novellen by Lloyd W. Wedberg, 1964; Storm's Novellen: Essays on Literary Technique by E. Allen McCormick, 1964; Techniques of Solipsism: A Study of Storm's Narrative Fiction by Terence J. Rogers, 1970; Sound and Sense in the Poetry of Storm: A Phonological-Statistical Study by Alan B. Galt, 1973; Storm: Studies in Ambivalence: Symbol and Myth in His Narrative Fiction by David Artiss, 1978; Storm edited by Patricia M. Boswell, 1989; Storm by Roger Paulin, 1992; Theory and Patterns of Tragedy in the Later Novellen of Theodor Storm by Barbara Burns, 1996.

* * *

Although Theodor Storm himself considered his lyric poetry his crowning achievement, he is remembered primarily as a writer of short stories. His earliest stories appeared in the 1840s in a provincial periodical. Anxious to express radical views without antagonizing censors, editors, or readers, he elaborated artistic means of cloaking his message while maneuvering his readers towards new positions. Superficially "Marthe and Her Clock" is a typical edifying tale. In fact the distance between heroine and fictional narrator highlights the plight of unmarried daughters in a backward society dominated by authoritarian fathers. Immensee ironically became a best-seller among the wealthy female clientele of an arch-conservative Berlin publisher. In the story, having lost his childhood sweetheart Elisabeth to the entrepreneur Erich, Reinhardt visits the couple's splendid estate years later. After moments of sultry temptation and nocturnal heart-searching, he leaves, never to return. While apparently upholding the sanctity of marriage, the story arraigns a system that estranges individuals from their true happiness. Society is depicted as a lions' den. During the repressive 1850s Storm created one masterpiece, Auf dem Staatshof (At King's Farm). Marx, a member of the educated middle class, seeks to persuade the reader to accept his version of the life and death of Anne Lene, a patrician. The text suggests contrary significances. Indeed Marx contributes substantially to the heroine's suicide.

In the early 1860s, when hopes of a liberal democratic, unified Germany were high, Storm sought to contribute more overtly committed stories to the influential middle-class family magazines with their large circulation and high fees. Im Schloss (In the Castle), with its shifting perspectives and its communication of significances lost on the heroine herself, follows the career of an aristocrat, Anna, who despite responding to the democratic, atheist ideas of her middle-class tutor, Arnold, denies her true savior and marries an aristocrat. The marriage violates her deepest feelings. After her husband's insistence—on the basis of unfounded rumor—on a separation, she retires, alone, to the bleak castle and is only rescued from a living death by the deus ex machina of her husband's death. Only then is the Feuerbachian gospel of human love proclaimed. Auf der Universität (translated as Lenore) pursues the recurrent theme of an innate human aspiration for a beautiful life that is frustrated by social factors. Again Storm highlights his middle-class narrator's inadequacies. Bismarck's harrying of oppositional civil servants and authors restricted Storm's scope, and when after 1866 many liberals endorsed the Bismarckian settlement his reservoir of like-minded readers shrank significantly. Disillusioned with politics and obsessed by private worries, Storm underwent a severe artistic crisis.

After 1870 he embarked on a series of experiments. "Eine Halligkfahrt" (A Holm Trip) revises the allusive, cloaked critical techniques of E. T. A. Hoffmann and Heinrich Heine. "Draussen im Heidedorf" (Out in the Moorland Village) employs, for Storm, a novel milieu—a dark, superstitious peasant community—and a new objective, impassive presentation: a judicial investigation into the disappearance of a married farmer consumed by passion for a Slav outsider. Appalled by his sons' promiscuity, Storm gravitated to a much more conservative view of the family and gender roles in the humorous idyll "Beim Vetter Christian" (At Cousin Chris-tian's), while in Viola tricolor he sought to exorcize the traumas of his second marriage. The story's pathos and creaking symbolism pall on the modern reader as does the classicizing of Psyche. Aquis submersus, in contrast, constitutes a highpoint in his fiction. The first of his chronicle novellas, it employs fictional narrators and the framework technique in order to contrast the violent, fanatical past of the inner story and the Biedermeier world of the outer frame. A painter, Johannes, sets out hopeful of achieving happiness in a still-feudal society dominated by church and aristocracy. Yet, crushed, he and his aristocratic lover, Katharina, sink back into notions of guilt and sin and of the vanity of mortal life. The theme of individuals groping towards enlightened, human norms in the face of hostile institutions and ideologies is at the heart of Storm's later works. Hereditary or genetic disabilities, ageing, and illness compound the obstacles. The superstitious, petty-minded mass confronts isolated champions of enlightenment.

His sons' descent into alcoholism, dissipation, and syphilis impelled Storm—despite his own poetic-realist beliefs—towards disturbing, "base" themes. Editors, critics, and friends made disapproving noises. The father-son problem moved to the fore. Carsten Curator depicts the futility of the efforts of a father and wife to save a son from his genetic make-up, while in Hans und Heinz Kirch a son is denied and sacrificed on the altar of his father's social ambitions. The depraved hero of Der Herr Etatsrath is depicted as a beetle-cum-primeval monster who destroys his son and condones the corruption of his daughter within the home itself. Storm's later historical or chronicle novellas vary in quality: Zur Chronik von Grieshuus (A Chapter in the History of Grieshuus) powerfully combines dramatic and epic elements; Eekenhof is derivative and insubstantial; and Ein Fest auf Haderslevhuus (A Festival at Haderslevhuus) marks a nadir in Storm's fiction. Topics like syphilis were tabu in whatever form. Thus in Schweigen (Silence) Storm substituted for syphilis a pathological fear of recurrent mental illness and insanity. As his subject matter became more sordid and realistic, he felt driven to compensate for this by idealizing and poeticizing the presentation: Schweigen is modeled on Weber's opera Der Freischütz.

Storm's later stories grapple with the social problems of industrialization and urbanization. Bötjer Basch (Basch the Cooper) offers an unconvincing synthesis of modern, American technology and older, German community values. Ein Doppelgänger (A Doppelgänger) accuses a society that never allows an ex-convict to recover his honor and human dignity. The hero meets an agonizing end when he falls down a well attempting to save his daughter from starving by stealing potatoes. But this indictment is balanced by a framework in which his daughter appears as a loving wife and mother married to a well-to-do, kindly forester. Despite common themes and concerns, the gap separating Storm the poetic-realist from the naturalists remained.

—David Jackson

See the essay on The Rider on the White Horse.