Eleanor Alexander
Fritz Mauthner - Honors

Dr. Max Krüger
Bahnhofplatz 4
December 31, 1919

Sehr Geehrter Herr Mauthner,

I am enclosing the text of the talk I gave in the town hall in Constance on the occasion of your seventieth birthday, since you expressed the wish to see it.

At the same time I would like to send you and your wife, also in the name of my wife, the warmest wishes for the year 1920.

Your most devoted Max Krüger
Head of the City Council


We are gathered here today to honor Fritz Mauthner on his 70th birthday, which he celebrated yesterday, on November 22nd. Mauthner spent this day quietly in his home, high above Lake Constance, in the charming Glaserhäusl which he has called his own for almost ten years. I am sure that in the future the Glaserhäusl will not only be remembered for the verses of Droste, but will be dear to all friends of German culture.

Meersburg is a very small place that unfortunately does not have an address register. I deplore this because I would have loved to consult it to find out, not who Mauthner was, but what his profession is. I consider such a register a most reliable source of information because it tells me what the person himself thought his profession was. For this reason such an address book would have been most helpful.

Since the plans of his birthday celebration gradually became known all over town, I listened to many conversations and discovered that for many Mauthner was a journalist, a theater critic of the Berliner Tageblatt. Others consider him the author of many poetic works, as a selection of his works had just been published in a one-volume edition. Some consider him to be a philosopher: they had just read an article by Wilhelm Scholz called "Summer Days," published by Reuss and lfta; in it Scholz devoted a chapter to Mauthner's "Wörterbuch der Philosophie" (Dictionary of Philosophy). lt would certainly be a mistake to consider Mauthner a linguist because the title of his most important work is "Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache" (Contributions to a Critique of language). Since the public's view of Mauthner are so divergent, I think that it would have been interesting to hear Mauthner's own opinion to learn what he himself considered his most important work.

Well, what I could not find in the non-existent address book, I discovered in the "Register of Participants of the Long Distance Network of the Postal District of Constance." There I read in black and white and am thus able to give you the authentic statement because it is Mauthner's own opinion that he was not a journalist, not a philosopher and not a philologist, but according to his own definition: Fritz Mauthner, Writer, Telephone Meersburg 22.

I then consulted Mauthner's "Dictionary of Philosophy," which I mentioned a little while ago, to find out whether he had given a definition of the word "writer" which might be useful for his own work, but to no avail the dictionary jumps from a very learned article on "Schopenhauer" to an article on "Schule" (Schools). We therefore must find our own way to a definition of his work and the versatile personality of the man who calls himself a "writer' - a man who is prominent in the cultural life of our time.

I will now give you a few dates about his life as quickly as possible, and I will only speak about those dates that might help explain his personality. Mauthner was born in Horice near Königgrätz in Bohemia in 1849. The family moved early in his life to Prague where he attended the gymnasium and later the Law Faculty at the University. After passing the Staatsexamen he worked in a lawyer's office for a while, but after his father's death he decided to devote his life to writing. The political atmosphere in Prague during these years before the First World War made Mauthner a political fighter rather than an aesthete.

Relations between the German and Czech populations were at times friendly, but often hostile, and this state of affairs forced Mauthner to put himself in the service of his fellow citizens. And Mauthner remained an active participant all of his life, from his youthful efforts to the days of a wise philosopher. During the days of his revolutionary period he wrote an essay, "Bismarck," published in a series called "Totengespräche" (Conversations of the Dead) which will be read later on.

In 1876 Mauthner moved to Berlin where he lived for thirty years. He started to work for the Berliner Tageblatt and published the satirical studies "Nach berühmten Mustern" (After famous Models) in essay form. The title can be found in Büchmann (a volume of literary quotations); it soon became famous and was often quoted. He imitated the style of many well-known writers of the period: Gustav Freytag, Richard Wagner, Marlitt and many more in an exaggerated manner. Thirty editions were published and Mauthner became a famous man overnight.

However, he did not really enjoy his fame because the public now considered him a satirist and, in their tyrannical way, wanted him to write parodies only. We know that Mauthner was not the man who could be forced to follow the demands of the public, but for us who can look over fifty years of Mauthner's work, the "Famous Models" were not an accidental event, but the 'real Mauthner." The creative effort is the same in everything that he wrote, and it will make his personality well-known over the centuries.

I believe that the "Famous Models" were a testimony of the extraordinary courage of the young author who dared challenge the most prominent literary personalities of his time. Only someone with a strong belief in his creative power can be in such high spirits. The parodies show an absolutely sure feeling for style and a command of language, But as Mauthner himself stated, their intention was bitter to criticize. And he succeeded: it was critical writing of the highest order. His later works confirm the opinion that the public had of his earlier works to a surprising degree.

How does the art critic Mauthner of these early days work? And how does his work differ from the scientific work of his later days? The highest artistic achievements begin in the unconscious and are intuitive creations of the artist. It is the task of the critic to move the unconscious into a conscious understanding; not only into that of the public, but often into the consciousness of the artist himself. The act of the critic is an objective understanding if possible. To criticize means to think and reflect about art as well as stating your opinion. Art criticism is not an exact science - the art critic must be moved by the work he is discussing and explore the unconscious. And the only way in which we are able to think is language.

The idea that thought and language are one is one of the most significant results, perhaps the definitive one of Mauthner's monumental philosophical "Contributions to a Critique of Language." Language is a human invention which developed only gradually in people's lives; and it still is not possible to discover the final truths through reason, but man can experience truth for short moments in holy hours of mystic ecstasy, when all differences cease between the "I" and the "other," between the world and God. And Mauthner expressed these thoughts most beautifully in the wonderful poem "Der Letzte Tod des Gautama Buddha" (The Last Death of the Gautama Buddha.) Later we will hear a recital of the "Butterfly Sermon."

Mauthner despises the concept of the ever changing word and his poetry is an effort of representation in plastic form. He wants to discover and explore the absolute truth. And thus all of his writing and his literary works, his poems and fairy tales, his historical novel and even his play mirror his sceptical view of life.

I think by now we have found the source of Mauthner's creative force. It is the gigantic force of his thought and the total and absolute mastery of language which makes it possible for him to express everything that he wants to say as philosopher and critic, but also what he feels as an artist. In addition, he is driven by his love of writing, his wish to describe his feelings, his thoughts and the images of his fantasy. From early years on he has always been prepared to fight for what he believed. He did not only want to destroy ridicule as in the "Parodies," but he wanted to fight for the new and the future of cultural progress. For this reason his critical activities always had a positive side.

He was able to go from literary criticism to poetic creation, declaring war on all writing that is not alive. He was one of the first to fight for new and modern writing, especially the plays of Gerhard Hauptmann. His work as a theater critic led him to a prominent position on the Board of the "Neue Freie Volksbühne" (New Popular Theater). He was one of the founders of the new enterprise, together with Paul Schlenther, Otto Brahm, Maximilian Harden, and many more. The aim of his fight as a journalist critic, poet and thinker can best be expressed in one sentence: "Words are unimportant, thoughts do not matter - to act is everything." His sceptical philosophy makes a definitive system impossible. However, his view of the world remains a very wise one and I firmly believe that worldly wisdom is more important than philosophy, and a wise person more admirable than a theoretical philosopher.

All his many intellectual activities Mauthner considers the work of a "writer." lf we also use this word when we try to define his life's work, we must say: Mauthner is a great writer, and we have to choose the adjective "great" when we read in the preface to his "Dictionary of Philosophy" the question of whether he was a leading intellectual spirit like lbsen, a poet or only a great writer like Pope and Swift.

I would now like to read the wire that Mauthner sent me today. This day will certainly remain alive in the history of the Theater of Constance and perhaps it will be remembered in our cultural history. lf in the future the question will be raised as to what position Mauthner held among his contemporaries, the answer will be given by our celebration here today. This day will always be called a day of honor and we will have honored ourselves by honoring Fritz Mauthner.


January 24, 1920

To the Honorable members of the City Council:

I received the artistically designed document making me an Honorary Citizen of Meersburg, the most beautiful city on beautiful Lake Constance. I have already expressed my gratitude to Mr. Krüger personally, but I should like to thank the members of the council more solemnly for the great honor which moved me deeply.

I realize that your decision was influenced by my reaching the Biblical age of seventy; however, I would belittle this rare honor, if I had any doubts that it was also a recognition of my life's intellectual achievements. And thus my pride and joy is all the greater and gives me a great feeling of happiness because I know that the citizens of Meersburg - in spite of political disagreements at times - are one with me in the appreciation of intellectual achievement.

Thus I want to thank the Honorable Members of the Council not only in my name but in the name of intellectuals all over the world.

May the city of Meersburg, where I hope to spend the last years of my life, continue to prosper and flourish - may God grant it.

In faithful devotion, Fritz Mauthner



Berlin W 35
February 25, 1911

Hochgeehrter Herr Mauthner,

The Association of German Editors wishes to give honorary membership to a few persons who have done outstanding work in the field of newspaper editing. There is of course no need to justify your nomination: your monumental work "Kritik der Sprache" (A Critique of Language) is a great and exciting achievement that everyone in our profession recognizes. In addition, I believe that Berlin has no theater critic at this time who is as good as you were. Thus we would be delighted to make you an honorary member at our yearly meeting.

With sincere greetings and vorzüglicher Hochachtung,

Dr. jur R. Wrede-Zehetmeier

LITERATUR - Letters to Fritz Mauthner, Translation by Eleanor Alexander, Winter 2001