Julius Fröbel to Fanny Piaget, Zurich, July 5, 1849
The enclosed letter to your brother, which I ask you to pass on, tells you all that I do not need to repeat in these lines. I have been free for a few days now, and yesterday my wife, whom I had left behind in a corner of the woods, followed me. We are where we are now because of the incompetence and wickedness of our party. I do not despair of Germany and Europe, but as much as I would like to persist and share the fate of all, I cannot do it, for it cannot help anyone or our cause if I sit idle in Switzerland to suffer hunger and allow my family to suffer. And I know of no country in Europe where I could hope to secure a livelihood. England and Norway may be the only ones, but I must give America precedence to both. If my plan succeeds, I will be at sea in 4 weeks. Naturally I will write you again beforehand. I feel in advance the pain that I will overcome across the sea, for my whole heart was in our struggles. But it must be.
Julius Fröbel to Fanny Lewald, New York, April 30, 1850
My esteemed friend!
If people claim, as you say, that I am one of those who never long for distant friends, they are correct to the degree that my friendship never assumes the form of longing, but it is no less faithful and reliable for all that. And so it is with you and our mutual friend Stahr. And as much as I have experienced since our farewells on the beach of Helgoland, the days I spent with you and Stahr on that small rock in the North Sea are still very much alive in my soul, and I reciprocate the feeling of love that you two showed me, now as then. I have not written you nonetheless because my inner and outer life here has not yet gained the firm ground one needs in order to look around. The present moment has something of a caesura to the degree that I completed a series of six lectures on the conditions and consequences of the European Revolution, and tomorrow I embark on a little journey to Washington and Virginia. You recall our conversations in Helgoland, and the news that I had become a soap maker, which gave our unfortunate newspaper journalists material to entertain their readers, will have shown you that my decision to jump afresh into practical life was meant seriously. I set all my ambitions upon becoming the Treu and Nuglisch of the New World. However, I had set my sights too high. The soap factory of Fröbel & Co in NY [New York] is no more! And, after this failed attempt, I abandon my intention to cleanse humanity of its dirt. If you ask the reasons for this tragic end of a promising enterprise, I must blame those who, under the pretense of Californian gold nuggets, have lured me away from that cultural project (you know that Professor [Justus v.] Liebig measures culture by soap consumption). There is no denying that we are demoralized here, and I may sink so low as to make my way to San Francisco. For the moment I am going to Washington tomorrow, with urgent recommendations to the president and the most influential members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and from there to Virginia. I intend to be back here in 3 or 4 weeks, and in June I will wander around Wisconsin and Iowa.
I have almost forgotten to answer your literary question. The German public in the United States does not read, or the segment that does read is composed of a small number of persons who occasionally dip into patriotic literature. The rich Germans have largely abandoned the German language and send their children to schools where the instruction is in English. In fact, I believe they are right to do so. My son, who has been here for fourteen days, has been going to an English school for eight days already. Since I arrived, Stahr’s Republikaner and your Prinz L[ouis] Ferdinand have been circulating among the German ladies of my acquaintance. I have made an effort to get the Republikaner translated, which would not bring Stahr anything but honor, but I have not managed thus far to sufficiently interest any publisher. I believe, however, that I will at length succeed. Many novels are being written here, but I have not yet had the time to learn what they are like. On the whole, I must tell you that the German book trade is nonexistent here, just as the German public lags behind the Anglo-American one. The entire “higher education” of our compatriots consists of claiming the right to engage in music and theater on Sundays, which the Anglo-Americans do not appreciate.
Overall, though, German literature here is so hopeless that I decided some time ago to use the English language in my own notes, and should I try my hand at literature it will likely only be in English.
I would like to enclose a few lines especially for Stahr, but I do not have another quarter hour, and I know that my words to you will easily reach him, if you believe that they are worth the effort of forwarding them. I will write him occasionally during my travels, and will have more interesting things to say than today. Farewell.
[a contact address follows]
Make sure that nothing from this letter ends up in a newspaper. I have had some unpleasant experiences.
Julius Fröbel to Ludwig Bamberger, Frankfurt am Main, September 9, 1857
Ever since my path led me through Paris, where I, alas, did not find you and thus indeed missed meeting the European friend with whom I most wanted to converse, I have now found some peace here for the first time, and as short as the time is that I can dedicate to completing volume 2 of my Erfahrungen etc., I must nonetheless be able to find an hour to reopen relations with you. The greater proximity and the commonality of a certain intellectual atmosphere that characterizes European life challenges me, even when I tell myself that I shall never again feel wholly comfortable and at home in this atmosphere. The political conditions in both parts of the world have nothing to do with this assertion, at least not directly: European life confronts me with more general moral differences, the same ones that already raised a certain intellectual barrier between myself and my German friends in New York. All of them yearn for European life, while I have always been an enemy of that which constitutes the specific spirit of European civilization in the modern sense, and my return after eight years of wandering abroad is not calculated to lessen this hostility. I would have liked to speak of these things with you, as I know from the past that your attitude towards life was akin to my own, and since the position you have now assumed in the world identifies you with interests that belong to the areas of useful activity and not bodily and mental gluttony and gourmandise, which not just mindless windbags but also many people close to us dare to call “idealism.” I for my part do not know what beer and tobacco have to do with ideals, even if they are enjoyed with music or sunsets; I do not know how one can call American life more materialistic than European life, simply because the former is productive and the latter consumptive—the former creates realities while the latter devours and drowns them.
But I have said more than I meant to. My intention was simply to tell you that I dislike Europe more since my return than I did upon leaving, and that I feel quite alien here. I do not believe we will stay here, for my wife, glad as she was to see her mother again, who will also spend the winter here with us, thinks and feels as I do, and prefers American to European life, despite all the hardships she suffered there to an unusual degree.
Unless the police, for example, disturb my peaceful existence, we will spend the winter here. I will be working on volume 2 of my book until the end of this month, followed by a volume entitled America, Europe and World Politics, which I no longer have anything to do with on this side of the ocean. My son, who is studying metallurgy in Freiberg but visiting us at the moment, will be finished with his studies by then, and well prepared to pursue a metallurgical profession in California, Mexico or Central America. Our return journey will take us through Paris, and if I do not see you elsewhere before that I hope to find you at home.
In the meantime, I would indeed be pleased to remain at least in epistolary contact, and a few lines from you will be a welcome gift.
Source: Julius Fröbel to Fanny Piaget, Zurich, July 5, 1849 (Brandenburg. LHA, Pr. Br. Rep. 90C Berlin, 9811, Bl.17); Julius Fröbel to Fanny Lewald, New York, April 30, 1850 (BA Koblenz, FSg. 1/310, Bl. 8f); and Julius Fröbel to Ludwig Bamberger, Frankfurt am Main, September 9, 1857 (BA Berlin, N 2008 [NL Bamberger; previously 90 Ba 3]/61, Bl. 2f); reprinted Christian Jansen, ed., Nach der Revolution 1848/49: Verfolgung, Realpolitik, Nationsbildung. Politische Briefe deutscher Liberaler und Demokraten 1849–1861. Düsseldorf: Droste, 2004, pp. 6; 106–9; 448–49.