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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Elizabeth of the German Garden

De Charms, Leslie. Elizabeth of the German Garden. I've already written entries on this biography here and here. I've googled Leslie de Charms, to whom Elizabeth left all of her papers and journals, and have come up with very little. My curiosity about de Charms was partly because of the protective attitude of the biography, partly because a Mrs. de Charms was Elizabeth's father's sister and I suspected that Leslie was a family relation, and partly because I wanted more information about the person Elizabeth trusted with all of her journals and letters.

I found this Inventory of the Mary Annette Russell, Countess, Papers, 1896-1941.
(Mary Annette Beauchamp became Von Arnim then Countess Russell, but was always, in her writing, Elizabeth.)

Under the Biography section of the above site: "[For further information see Leslie de Charms' Elizabeth of the German Garden, 1958; this biography was written by her daughter, Elizabeth (von Arnim) Butterworth]"

So it appears that Elizabeth left her papers to her beloved Liebet, Mrs. Corwin Butterworth, who wrote the biography under the pseudonym of Leslie de Charms. Am I correct in this assumption?

While I think the author (De Charms? Liebet?) did a fair job of presenting events fairly, I did think she seemed protective of Elizabeth and was frustrated that she mentioned several passionate letters from Mark Rainey and Francis Russell that she "couldn't" include. :) If she hadn't mentioned that she couldn't include them, I would have been just fine.

Moving on...

Elizabeth recognized the threat from Hitler much earlier than most. Her own experiences in Germany, her anger at the Germans because of WWI, and the fact that her daughter Trix was married to a German only increased her dread.

From a letter to Liebet in May of 1932: "...I utterly agree with your remarks about the way we don't take the trouble to learn a few politics and just let them slide along unchecked to catastrophe...we should be more intelligently interested, and as a beginning I'm reading everything I can lay my hands on about the crisis...They'll (the Germans) drag us all to hell and themselves too..."

She is frustrated with people's blindness to the threat, but her worries increase as her daughter becomes more and more fearful and must prove her ethnic purity. Yet between her personal problems and disappointments, her frequent illnesses and her increasing age, and her fears of war, Elizabeth continues to bounce back. Finally, in May of 1939, Elizabeth boards the Queen Mary for America. She died in Charleston on February 9, 1941; Lieb was with her.

Elizabeth's reading was wide and deep, and she recorded-- in both letters and journals-- what she was reading and how she felt about it. She had a great fondness for D.H. Lawrence, but didn't like Rebecca West's novels. When she met West, she was surprised at how much she liked her personally (West had reviewed many of Elizabeth's own novels and not altogether favorably). Reading Elizabeth's assessments of her reading (including her own novels, often critically) was one of the aspects I most enjoyed.

I'm so glad Melanie suggested this biography; it was a pleasure to spend time with Elizabeth.

Wickipedia article.

Nonfiction. Biography. 1958. 424 pages.

10 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And thanks to your research I know more about it than I did before. Thanks!

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  2. I want to track down this book since it sounds as if it is an excellent read. I enjoyed the bits about Virginia Woolf as well in another post.

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  3. oops ... I also wanted to say that I love the title of your blog. It is a wonderful image.

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  4. I am an Italian reader of Elizabeth von Arnim...I read also in German her books because no more available in English...........and in Italy we have translated only a few books of her. But pleas, let me know: I bought a biography of Kate Ousborne...his also this one by L:de Charms interesting? If yes, I'll buy it!
    Saluti da Roma,
    Caterina

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  5. I am an Italian reader of Elizabeth von Arnim...I read also in German her books because no more available in English...........and in Italy we have translated only a few books of her. But pleas, let me know: I bought a biography of Kate Ousborne...his also this one by L:de Charms interesting? If yes, I'll buy it!
    Saluti da Roma,
    Caterina

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't know what happened, but I did not realize these comments were here.
    Very strange.

    Melanie -- Yes! The biography was a real pleasure to read, and I'm so glad you recommended it!
    Kate -- Thanks for visiting; I'm sorry that I'm only now getting around to responding. When I began reading the biography, I puzzled over the identity of de Charms and was glad I finally discovered that it was a pseudonym for Elizabeth's daughter. I'd love to know what she left out, however, because there are a lot of ellipses...
    :)

    Anonymous-- The book is out of print, although with the renewed interest in von Arnim, perhaps a publisher may decide to re-publish.
    It really is an excellent and thorough portrait of Elizabeth.

    I've compiled a list of some of the sites that have copies (not inexpensive) available:

    Amazon
    Biblio.com
    Books & Collectibles
    NaomiSymes

    Buona Fortuna!

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  7. I come to this late in the day - about two years late, it seems!

    However, I have been researching the life of Elizabeth Von Arnim, to whom I am distantly connected by way of the Australian and New Zealand branches of the Beauchamp family....

    And I wondered how you obtained your copy of the Leslie De Charms biography? So far as I have been able to see, the only copies available are second-hand, and vastly over-priced!

    If you are still around, I'd be so grateful for a little help and advice.

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  8. i beatrice - Yes, the book is out of print. Did you try the sites I listed in the above comments? I researched many used and rare book sellers in 2007, and finally found a copy for $20.00.

    My library didn't have a copy, but I didn't try interlibrary loan which would have given me access to all state and parish libraries.

    Another option might be Bookmooch.

    Good Luck!

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  9. I came accross your blog while looking for the family of a man named Hans Wedige von Arnim. I have a portrait of him that I would like to see returned to the von Arnim family which I found leaning against a dumpster near LSU. I imagine that this man must have some family in the area. The portrait was done in 1940 by L. von Verser. Von Arnim died in the Battle of France in 1940 and is buried in Bourdon, France. He was born in Schwerin in 1914. If you have come across any local von Arnims in your research, I would be grateful for the infomation.

    Thank you,

    BR

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  10. Beth - I'm afraid I can't help. It is such a shame to have the portrait unclaimed, especially if there are family members who knew him.

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