Ricarda Huch

Ricarda Huch (18 July 1864 – 17 November 1947) was a German writer.

Huch was the youngest daughter of a wealthy merchant family, whose business was headquartered in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Huch’s father was frequently on travel between Hamburg, Brazil and Braunschweig (the city where they lived).

She received better education than the one middle-class girls got at the time. As a child, Huch wrote poems and short plays, and read voraciously.

When she was 19, in 1883, Ricarda fell in love with her cousin, Richard Huch, the husband of her sister Lilly Huch. Richard was also in love with her, and their relationship started to be gossiped about in Braunschweig.

Longing to complete her studies and to distance herself from Richard after the birth of Käthe, his third child, Ricarda Huch moved to Zurich, in 1887. German universities did not allow women to graduate, but that was possible in Switzerland. Meanwhile, people started to gossip in Braunschweig that she had decided to move and pursue her studies due to the fact that “no one would want to marry her”. Richard Huch, on the other hand, was not gossiped about and remained largely undisturbed.

Ricarda completed her Abitur (her high school diploma) through private lessons and took the examinations to enter the University of Zurich. There, she studied history, philology and philosophy. In 1891, she published her first volume of poems (Gedichte, 1891), under the male pseudonym Richard Hugo, and graduated with a PhD in 1892 – one of the first German women to do so.

Richard and Ricarda still kept in touch, they still loved each other and sometimes met on weekends. In 1893, she published her first novel ,Erinnerungen von Ludolf Ursleu dem Jüngeren (Memories of Ludolf Ursleu the Younger), which was a great success. However, some family members thought they recognized themselves in the novel, and Ricarda was once again maligned and gossiped about in Braunschweig.

After graduation, Huch started working as a librarian at the Zurich public library. In 1896, she worked as a teacher in Bremen, at a finishing school for young women. In the autobiographical book Spring in Switzerland (Frühling in der Schweiz, 1938), she wrote about her work as a teacher: “I loved the girls, but it was annoying that I had to teach them something. At that time I had no firm convictions, […] what I had in view of the world was a direction towards life, towards the beautiful, the great, the real. Above all, I wanted to live and experience, and that seemed to be hampered by school”.

Around the same time, in 1897, Richard Huch had decided to separate from his wife Lilly and move to France with Ricarda. On the way to Paris, however, he changed his mind, and decided to break the affair with Ricarda. In her memoirs, she wrote: “I felt destroyed. This love had been at the core of my life for thirteen years, I had believed in it […]. I had sacrificed my conscience to an illusion.” Richard later tried to get in touch with her again, and even threatened to kill himself if she didn’t respond, but she rejected him.

Ricarda moved to Vienna, in 1897, where she met and fell in love with the Italian dentist Ermanno Ceconi. They married on July 9, 1898 in Vienna, and moved to Trieste. Their daughter Marietta was born on September 9, 1899. Huch, who initially had not wanted to get pregnant because of her career as a writer, wrote in her memoirs: “From the moment I was given the little creature, I loved it passionately. I didn’t love it with a natural sensible motherly love; it was a kind of furore, something of the madness of passion.”

In 1902, the family moved to Munich, where Ceconi stablished his dental practice (Thomas Mann and his family were his clients).

Käthe Huch, the third daughter of Lilly and Richard, came to visit Munich and fell in love with Ceconi, and they started an affair. Meanwhile, Ricarda’s sister Lilly fell in love with a younger man, separated from Richard, and then broke off the affair and moved to Berlin to pursue a PhD on Immanuel Kant (later, the younger man with whom she had had an affair married her daughter Käthe…).

Ricarda and Ceconi separated, and, in 1905, she resumed her affair with Richard. On May 16, 1905, she wrote to Marie Baum: “Suddenly I am alive again, young again, my body is roaring, tears are constantly flowing from my eyes, like thawed streams.”

In 1906, the Ceconis were officially divorced, and, in 1907, Richard and Ricarda Huch married. They moved back to Braunschweig, where they were strongly ostracized. Richard’s law firm lost many clients due to the gossip against Ricarda. To make matters worse, Richard disliked Marietta, who moved away to live with her father.

In 1910, Richard and Ricarda Huch decide to separate again, and, in 1911, they divorced. In her autobiographical text, Die Ehe mit Richard (The Marriage to Richard), Ricarda wrote: “That was the end of my love, whose omnipotence relieved me of the guilt to which it had driven me. If only that could also relieve me of the pain I suffered: I felt this love like the fire of Hell”.

Ricarda Huch returned to Munich and started to live with her daughter. During World War I, they moved to Bern, Switzerland, and returned to Munich in 1918 – where Ricarda resumed her relationship with Ceconi. They started to live together again, moving back and forth between Germany and Italy.

In 1924, on the occasion of Ricarda’s 60th birthday, Thomas Mann called her “not only the first woman of German letters”, but “probably the first in Europe”. Huch had been annoyed by this speech because Mann had called her “die Huch” (the Huch), instead of using her the full name.

Her books were much loved by readers and critics alike, and, in 1926, she was the first woman to be appointed to the newly founded poetry section at the Prussian Academy of the Arts.

Ceconi died at the end of 1927 and Huch moved to Berlin with her daughter Marietta. After Hitler came to power, she became outspoken against the Nazi regime. In 1933, she refused to sign a certificate of loyalty to the government, and left the Prussian Academy of the Arts. In the occasion, she wrote: “What the current government prescribes as a national mindset is not my Germanism. I consider the centralization, the coercion, the brutal methods, the defamation of dissenters, the boastful self-praise to be un-German and ominous. With a view that deviates so much from the state’s prescribed opinion, I think it is impossible for me to stay in the Academy”.

Ricarda also firmly rejected the anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish writers, such as Alfred Döblin. She was one of the few German writers who did not emigrate and openly criticized the regime. However, it became increasingly difficult for her to publish books in Germany, which she was able to do only through Swiss publishers. Her son-in-law was forced out of the public service by the Nazis, and the family moved houses frequently.

Despite her open criticism against the Nazi government, Ricarda accepted the Wilhelm Raabe Prize, in 1944, a literary prize financed by the government. This was a decision she would later regret: “It may be excusable that I did not have the presence of mind to refuse the 30,000 marks I was given, but I consider it a stain on my honour, which I cannot wipe out”, she wrote in a letter to a friend.

After the war, Ricarda settled in Frankfurt, and started working on a book celebrating members of the German resistance. In 1946, she received an honorary doctorate from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature seven times, and her literary work is very extensive, both thematically and stylistically, comprising poems, plays, novels, essays and historical nonfiction books.

Ricarda Huch died on November 17, 1947, at the age of 83, from the consequences of pneumonia. Her book on the German resistance remained unfinished, and was published only in 1998.

As Alfred Döblin once wrote, Huch “was too proud not to be brave”.

Books

Novels

  • Erinnerungen von Ludolf Ursleu dem Jüngeren, 1893
  • Michael Unger, 1903
  • Von den Königen und der Krone, 1904
  • Das Leben des Grafen Federigo Confalonieri, 1910
  • Der Fall Deruga, 1917

Novellas and Short-stories

  • Der Mondreigen von Schlaraffis, 1896
  • Haduvig im Kreuzgang, 1897
  • Teufeleien, 1897
  • Fra Celeste und andere Erzählungen, 1899
  • Aus der Triumphgasse. Lebensskizzen, 1902
  • Seifenblasen. Drei scherzhafte Erzählungen [Lebenslauf des heiligen Wonnebald Pück. Aus Bimbos Seelenwanderungen. Das Judengrab], 1905
  • Der Hahn von Quakenbrück. Und andere Novellen, 1910
  • Der letzte Sommer. Eine Erzählung in Briefen, 1910
    • English: The Last Summer  (2016, tr.  Jamie Bulloch. Original: Der letzte Sommer, 1910)
  • Lebenslauf des heiligen Wonnebald Pück. Eine Erzählung, 1913
  • Das Judengrab; Aus Bimbos Seelenwanderungen. Zwei Erzählungen, 1916
  • Der neue Heilige. Novellen, 1920
  • Der jüdische Kewer, 1922
  • Der arme Heinrich. Eine Erzählung, 1924
  • Die Maiwiese. Eine Erzählung, 1924
  • Der wiederkehrende Christus. Eine groteske Erzählung, 1926
  • Die Hugenottin. Historische Novelle, 1932
  • Weiße Nächte. Novelle, 1943
  • Der falsche Großvater. Erzählung, 1947
  • Die Goldinsel und andere Erzählungen, 1972
  • Ausgewählte Erzählungen, 1980
  • Die Goldinsel; Der Weltuntergang. Zwei Erzählungen, 1988

Poetry

  • Gedichte, 1891
  • Gedichte, 1894
  • Liebesgedichte, 1907
  • Neue Gedichte, 1907
  • Gedichte, 1919
  • Alte und neue Gedichte, 1922
  • Gesammelte Gedichte, 1929
  • Herbstfeuer. Gedichte, 1944
  • Frühe Gedichte und Liebesreime, 1960
  • Wüßt ich ein Lied. Ausgewählte Gedichte, 1974

Plays

  • Der Bundesschwur. Lustspiel mit Benutzung der historischen Ereignisse in der schweizer. Eidgenossenschaft vom Jahre 1798, 1890
  • Evoë! Dramatisches Spiel in fünf Aufzügen, 1892
  • Dornröschen. Ein Märchenspiel, 1902

Letters and Memoirs

  • Frühling in der Schweiz. Jugenderinnerungen, 1938
  • Mein Tagebuch, 1946
  • Briefwechsel mit Henriette Feuerbach und Ricarda Huch. Zürich, ed. Josef Viktor Widmann (1965)
  • Erinnerungen an das eigene Leben, 1980
  • Briefe an die Freunde, ed. Marie Baum, 1986
  • Mosaikbild einer Freundschaft. Ricarda Huchs Briefwechsel mit Elisabeth und Heinrich Wölfflin, ed. Heidy Margrit Müller, 1994
  • Du, mein Dämon, meine Schlange … Briefe an Richard Huch 1887 – 1897, ed. Anne Gabrisch, 1998

Nonfiction

  • Die Neutralität der Eidgenossenschaft, besonders der Orte Zürich und Bern, während des spanischen Erbfolgekrieges, 1893
  • Die Wicksche Sammlung von Flugblättern und Zeitungsnachrichten aus dem 16. Jahrhundert in der Stadtbibliothek Zürich, 1895
  • Blütezeit der Romantik, 1899
  • Ausbreitung und Verfall der Romantik, 1902
  • Gottfried Keller, 1904
  • Die Geschichten von Garibaldi, 1906
  • Das Risorgimento, 1908
  • Der große Krieg in Deutschland. Band I: Das Vorspiel 1585 – 1620. Band II: Der Ausbruch des Feuers 1620 – 1632. Band III: Der Zusammenbruch 1633 – 1650 (Später unter dem Titel: Der Dreißigjährige Krieg. 3 Bände), 1912-1914
  • Natur und Geist als die Wurzeln des Lebens und der Kunst (Später unter dem Titel: Von Wesen des Menschen. Natur und Geist), 1914
  • Wallenstein. Eine Charakterstudie, 1915
  • Luthers Glaube. Briefe an einen Freund, 1916
  • Jeremias Gotthelfs Weltanschauung, 1917
  • Der Sinn der Heiligen Schrift, 1919
  • Entpersönlichung, 1921
  • Vom Wesen des Menschen. Natur und Geist, 1922
  • Michael Bakunin und die Anarchie, 1923
  • Graf Mark und die Prinzessin von Nassau-Usingen. Eine tragische Biographie, 1925
  • Stein. Auch unter dem Titel: Freiherr von Stein, 1925
  • Im alten Reich. Lebensbilder deutscher Städte, 1927
  • 1848. Alte und neue Götter; die Revolution des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, 1930
  • Lebensbilder mecklenburgischer Städte, 1930
  • Deutsche Tradition. Ein Vortrag, 1931
  • Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation, 1934
  • Quellen des Lebens. Umrisse einer Weltanschauung, 1935
  • Das Zeitalter der Glaubensspaltung, 1937
  • Spiel und Tanz. Frohsinn in Bildern früherer Zeiten, 1939
  • Urphänomene, 1946
  • Die letzten Hohenstaufer, 1947
  • Untergang des Römischen Reiches Deutscher Nation, 1949
  • In einem Gedenkbuch zu sammeln … Bilder deutscher Widerstandskämpfer, ed. Wolfgang Matthias Schwiedrzik, 1998
  • Der Dreißigjährige Krieg, 2004

About her

  • So weit wie die Welt geht. Ricarda Huch: Geschichte eines Lebens, by Stefanie Viereck (1990)
  • Schriftstellerinnen in Berlin 1871 bis 1945. Ein Lexikon zu Leben und Werk, by Petra Budke (1995)
  • Ricarda Huch. Ihr Leben und ihr Werk, by Cordula Koepcke (1996)
  • In den Abgrund werf ich meine Seele. Die Liebesgeschichte von Ricarda und Richard Huch, by Anne Gabrisch (2000)
  • Die zerbrechliche Welt der menschlichen Angelegenheiten. Über Leben und Alterswerk europäischer Schriftstellerinnen Ricarda Huch, Virginia Woolf, Tania Karen Blixen, Marina Zwetajewa, Vittoria Colonna, Marguerite Yourcenar, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Ingeborg Bachmann, Grete Weil, by Wenda Focke (2005)
  • Fliegen mit gestutzten Flügeln. Die letzten Jahre der Ricarda Huch: 1933 – 1947, by Barbara Bronnen (2007)
  • Verboten, verfemt, vertrieben. Schriftstellerinnen im Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus, by Edda Ziegler (2010)
  • Ricarda Huch. Die Summe des Ganzen: Leben und Werk, by Katrin Lemke (2014)

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