. 7
( 13)


the Aufkl¨ rung itself.82 Alongside the dominant ideas of the nation that
had evolved during the eighteenth century new ideas now also began
to emerge. Adam Muller developed the ideas of Edmund Burke into
an organological theory of the state, while others, such as the Grimm
brothers, Niebuhr and Dahlmann, formulated an idealised view of the
German peasant that later became the foundation of much ˜volkisch™ ¨
The ideas developed before 1789 inevitably assumed different mean-
ings as those who espoused them went through the massive upheavals of
the next twenty-¬ve years. While any periodisation is to a degree arbi-
trary, the years around 1800 seem to be genuine ˜Satteljahre™ (watershed
years).84 Yet exclusive concentration on this transformation both fails to
do justice to the previous transformations of the Aufkl¨ rung and tends to
obscure the lines of continuity along which Aufkl¨ rung thinking survived
into the nineteenth century. For all the confusion and ambiguity of their
present situation, commentators around 1800 surely had good reason to

80 Heinrich Heine, S¨ mtliche Werke, 2nd edn, 4 vols. (Munich: Hanser, 1992), II, p. 279.
81 Wehler, Nationalismus, pp. 62“87.
82 Wolfgang Albrecht and Christoph Weiß, ˜Einleitende Bemerkungen zur Beantwortung
der Frage: Was heißt Gegenaufkl¨ rung?™, in Christoph Weiß (ed.), Von ˜Obscuranten™
und ˜Eud¨ monisten™. Gegenaufkl¨ rerische, konservative und antirevolution¨ re Publizisten im
a a a
sp¨ ten 18. Jahrhundert, Literatur im historischen Kontext 1 (St Ingbert: Rohrig, 1997),
a ¨
pp. 7“34.
83 von See, Freiheit und Gemeinschaft, pp. 25“40.
84 See Reinhart Koselleck, ˜Einleitung™, in Brunner, Conze and Koselleck (eds.),
Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, I, pp. xiii“xxvii, at pp. xv“xvi; Reinhart Koselleck, ˜Das
achtzehnte Jahrhundert als Beginn der Neuzeit™, in Reinhart Herzog and Reinhart
Koselleck (eds.), Epochenschwelle und Epochenbewußtsein, Poetik und Hermeneutik 12
(Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1987), pp. 269“82.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 179

view the second half of the eighteenth century as the ˜philosophisches
Jahrhundert™.85 A cacophony of voices engaged in multiple but intercon-
nected debates accompanied a major shift in attitudes. The ¬rst German
Enlightenment was preoccupied with ideas of power, or at least with what
those in power could achieve for society. The second German Enlighten-
ment was preoccupied with the power of ideas to create the optimal con-
ditions for the ful¬lment of human (social) existence. This latter vision
was as radical as any conceived in the eighteenth century. It has fasci-
nated German intellectuals of all political persuasions, both the heirs of
the Aufkl¨ rung and their opponents, to this day.

85 Bohr, Philosophie f¨ r die Welt, p. 275.
¨ u
9 Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit in
eighteenth-century Germany

Maiken Umbach
University of Manchester

Gone are the days when it was fashionable to view culture as a product
of longue dur´e sociological processes far removed from the action-packed
world of high politics.1 Tim Blanning™s work leaves us in little doubt
about the importance of the state in shaping culture. This raises inter-
esting questions about causality. In the Marxist tradition, the story was
clear: each cultural superstructure was the logical and inevitable product
of an equivalent economic substructure, in other words: the out¬‚ow of
class consciousness. The introduction of Gramsci™s ˜cultural hegemony™
slightly complicated matters, but still, from Marx to Adorno, culture was
accorded no real agency.2 Under different auspices, one can imagine a
history of culture where the ˜primacy of the state™ replaces the primacy of
the socio-economic realm. In such a history, the quest for political legit-
imacy would engender cultural production: from blatant propaganda to
subtler forms of political af¬rmation.3 By the same token, in the hands
of the oppressed and disenfranchised, we can imagine culture as a means
1 For this approach, see Arnold Hauser, Sozialgeschichte der Kunst und Literatur (2 vols.,
Munich, 1953). Traces of it can still be found in more recent work, for example Jutta
Held and Norbert Schneider, Sozialgeschichte der Malerei vom Sp¨ tmittelalter bis ins 20.
Jahrhundert (Cologne, 1993).
2 Unlike orthodox Marxists, the Italian Antonio Gramsci (1891“1937) argued that culture
could become detached from its economic base under certain conditions. Speci¬cally,
Gramsci suggested that capitalism™s longevity had to be explained in terms of a ˜hege-
monic culture™, through which the bourgeoisie transformed their own outlook into a
seemingly universal or common-sensical set of beliefs. Workers thus developed a ˜false
consciousness™, which inhibited socialist revolutions. On Marxist attitudes to culture,
see Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction (London, 1991); and Martin Jay, Marxism
and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukacs to Habermas (Berkeley, 1986). On
Gramsci and the notion of hegemonic culture, see Walter L. Adamson, Hegemony and
Revolution: A Study of Antonio Gramsci™s Political and Cultural Theory (Berkeley and Lon-
don, 1980); Benedetto Fontana, Hegemony and Power: On the Relation between Gramsci
and Machiavelli (Minneapolis, 1993).
3 Representative examples of this approach include Art and Power: Europe Under the Dicta-
tors, 1930“1945 (exhibition catalogue, London, 1995); Hermann Hipp and Ernst Seidl,
eds., Architektur als politische Kultur: philosophia practica (Berlin, 1996), especially chap-
ters by Bernd Roeck, ˜Die Ohnmacht des Dogen und die Macht der Kunst: Marco und

Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 181

of political resistance or subversion. Such a view of ˜cultures of power™
has become well established in recent decades. But what of the power of
culture? The second half of Blanning™s emblematic title suggests that
politics have not simply taken the place of the socio-economic
substructure; causation here is an altogether more complex affair.
Culture, it seems, is a power in its own right.
Of course, the claim that culture and power are mutually constitutive
is not entirely new. Yet, despite fashionable protestations to the contrary,
the bulk of historical writing still treats culture as ˜illustrative™ of politi-
cal processes.4 If this has begun to change, this change is not so much
the result of more sophisticated histories of cultures, but, rather, new
histories of the state.5 For increasingly historians have come to see the
state itself as a cultural artefact. Very different methodological trajecto-
ries appear to be converging on this conclusion. First, there is theoreti-
cally informed work that takes its cue from Latour™s notion of material
culture as an ˜actant™.6 Such work has suggested that state power con-
sists not only in the activities of the legislature, judiciary and executive,
but is also constituted through a range of material interventions in the
natural and built environment, which ˜naturalise™ particular governing
rationalities. Many historical accounts written in this vein focus on the

Agostino Barbarigo, 1485“1501™, ibid., pp. 79“92; and Andreas Koestler, ˜Gloire und
simplicit´ franzosischer Platzanlagen. Zur politischen Asthetik der Reimser Place Royale™,
e ¨
ibid., pp. 131“47; Jacques Le Goff, Reims, ville du sacre (Paris, 1986); Georges Duby, 27
juillet 1214: le dimanche de Bouvines (Paris, 1973), which proposes a reading of a battle
as a carefully choreographed ˜ceremony™ of power; and, exploring the dialectic between
˜autonomous™ art and propaganda, Elmar Stolpe, Klassizismus und Krieg. Uber den Histo-
rienmaler Jacques-Louis David (Frankfurt a.M., 1985).
4 A side-effect of this is that, as source materials, artefacts are rarely allowed to speak for
themselves. Their ˜meaning™ is, instead, derived from written sources documenting the
˜intentions™ of their creators. Critiques of such approaches have been articulated by Peter
Wagner, Reading Iconotexts: From Swift to the French Revolution (London, 1995), p. 169;
and Ernest B. Gilman ˜Interart Studies and the Imperialism of Language™, Poetics Today
10 (1989), pp. 5“30; W. J. T. Mitchell, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago, 1986);
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, trans. A. Sheridan (New York, 1973).
5 Three iconic volumes can serve as pars pro toto here: Clifford Geertz, Negara: The Theatre
State in Nineteenth-Century Bali (Princeton, 1980), the ¬rst in¬‚uential study to argue that
cultural ritual was central to a state™s reality; Theda Skocpol, Bringing the State Back In
(Cambridge, 1985), which signalled the ˜rediscovery™ of the state among social scientists
and cultural historians; and James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to
Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, 1998), which charts the material
processes involved in some of the most ambitious political projects of so-called ˜high
6 Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society
(Milton Keynes, 1987), introduced the neologism ˜actant™ as a neutral way to refer to
actors irrespective of intentions, in both the human and the material world.
182 Maiken Umbach

late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, under the heading of ˜liberal
governmentality™,7 but there is now also a growing body of early modern
scholarship which takes a similar line. Chandra Mukerji™s study of the
gardens of Versailles as a physical realisation of the ideal absolutist state
is a case in point.8
Such broadly Foucauldian approaches have no monopoly claim to the
growing ¬eld of history which examines culture as a form of politics.
Recent empirical work on modern German history, too, has also taken a
material turn.9 Relatedly, political historians of the early modern period
have woken up to the fact that the different types of regimes they study
were themselves culturally constructed myths; the most famous example
that springs to mind is the Myth of Absolutism.10
If the state, then, is at least partly constituted by culture, it makes
little sense to see culture only as its product; it is, also, the stuff that
states are made of. This raises interesting questions about agency. It
is, of course, imperative that we do not revert to German-style Geis-
tesgeschichte, in which a rei¬ed notion of ˜culture™ as a Hegelian spirit
of the age is seen as the driving force behind world events. Yet it does
seem clear that the relationship between culture and the state is mutu-
ally constitutive. Tim Blanning offers us two related yet subtly different
explanations for this relationship.11 According to the ¬rst, cultural rich-
ness is the direct corollary of political power. The more hegemonic a
political regime, the more impressive its cultural production, and vice
versa. Historically, this did not apply only to the musical, visual and lit-
erary examples explored in Blanning™s book, notably the courtly culture
of absolutist France and Enlightened Prussia. Similar observations could
equally be made about quattrocento and cinquecento Venice, Elizabethan
England, or Spain™s Golden Age. Such culture is not, or not only, a prod-
uct of political power; it is one of the ways in which power is translated
into political praxis.

7 Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City (London and New
York, 2003); Nikolas Rose, Powers of Freedom (Cambridge, 1999); Chris Otter, ˜Making
Liberalism Durable: Vision and Civility in the Late Victorian City™, Social History 27/1
(January 2002), pp. 1“15.
8 Chandra Mukerji, Territorial Ambitions and the Garden of Versailles (Cambridge, 1997).
See also Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIV (New Haven, 1992).
9 For example, David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water and the Making of the
Modern German Landscape (London, 2006). See also, by the same author, ˜A Sense
of Place: New Directions in German History™, Annual Lecture at the German Historical
Institute 1998 (London, 1999).
10 Nick Henshall, The Myth of Absolutism: Change and Continuity in Early Modern European
Monarchy (London and New York, 1992).
11 T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe,
1660“1789 (Oxford, 2002), especially summary of both models on p. 223.
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 183

Blanning™s second hypothesis, however, complicates the equation. For
it introduces a small yet decisive time gap. Here, cultural achievement is
seen as something that follows rather than accompanies the heyday of any
given political regime. In this view, culture is not so much a sensual as a
re¬‚ective activity. And like the owl of Minerva, such ˜philosophical™ cul-
ture resumes her graceful ¬‚ight only in the twilight of political glory. This
model, according to Blanning, can better account for the cultural richness
of ¬fteenth-century Burgundy, eighteenth-century Venice, or Vienna and
Paris around 1900. Indeed, ever since the ¬n de si`cle, the idea of cultural
vitality as a product of political decadence has gained widespread cur-
rency. Yet Blanning gives this idea an interesting new twist. It is not so
much the well-rehearsed tale of the rise and fall of empires which informs
his view of culture as something that ¬‚ourishes after political power has
peaked. Rather, Blanning uses the example of eighteenth-century regimes
on the cusp between ˜representational™ and ˜critical™ culture to show how
cultural production can result from what we might call ˜politics with a
vision™. Frederick the Great was out of touch with many artistic innova-
tions of his time. Yet he emerges from Blanning™s analysis as a ruler who,
although conservative and Francophile in his personal cultural tastes,
was driven by a ¬rm conviction that German culture was about to enter
a golden age that was fuelled by the expansion of Prussian state power.12
Thus, even if Klassik and Idealism in German literature and thought were
not in any direct sense sponsored by the Prussian state “ and in this were
quite distinct from the courtly culture which historians such as Mukerji
examined “ they were, at least in the eyes of Frederick himself, indirect
products of his regime.13 Unlike the technical experts examined in the
recent literature on the technologies of liberal power, the writers and
artists of the new ˜critical™ culture, from Immanuel Kant to Wolfgang
von Goethe, operated at arm™s length from the state and their princely
patrons, basing their status on the ˜autonomy™ of cultural production.
Yet this does not make their art apolitical. Instead, critical culture can
be read as a kind of commentary on politics, re¬‚ecting on political prac-
tices from a distinct and independent point of view, and, in doing so,
in¬‚uencing and shaping events to come. Culture, in short, was not just a
mirror image of the state: it emerged from the political realm, but tran-
scended the politics of the day, and connected with the politics of the

12 Ibid., pp. 194“232.
13 Nicholas Boyle makes a similar point when he interprets German classicism essentially
as an extension of Kantian Idealism in his Goethe: The Poet and the Age, especially II,
Revolution and Renunciation, 1790“1803 (Oxford, 2000).
184 Maiken Umbach

At this precise moment of transition, from a representational (or of¬-
cial) to a critical (or autonomous) culture, the category of B¨ rgerlichkeit
entered contemporary debates. At ¬rst glance, this seems to take us back
to materialist explanations. Marxist orthodoxy suggests that it was the
rise of the middle classes, not the political superstructure, which explains
this transformation. For representational culture read ˜aristocratic™, for
critical culture read the ˜bourgeois™ “ and we arrive at the subtitle of
Habermas™s famous study of the public sphere as ˜a category of bour-
geois society™.14 The rise of the middle classes is of course one of the old-
est clich´ s of historical writing, typically fairly meaningless, and entirely
misplaced when trying to understand eighteenth-century Germany. As
Blanning reminds us, small-town burghers, who made up the bulk of the
German middle classes, were losers, not gainers, in the structural trans-
formation of the public sphere, alongside the peasantry.15 As German
burgher towns declined after the Thirty Years™ War, courtly culture came
to dominate German life, and continued to do so well into the nineteenth
century. This is why many historians have concluded that B¨ rgerlichkeit is
not a useful concept when trying to explain cultural change in eighteenth-
century Germany. Yet it remains a fact that from the 1770s onwards,
contemporaries frequently referred to the culture of the salons, reading
clubs and debating societies, in short, to what Habermas described as the
new public sphere, as b¨ rgerlich. We only need to recall the invention of a
new literary genre dubbed the b¨ rgerliches Trauerspiel.16 And when Rein-
hardt Koselleck subtitled his distinctly non-Marxist dissertation on Ger-
man Enlightenment culture ˜an inquiry into the pathogenesis of b¨ rgerlich
society™, he could marshal an impressive range of contemporary sources
to justify his choice of words. Unlike Habermas, however, Koselleck,

14 Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a
Category of Bourgeois Society (Cambridge, 1989). Critiques of this model are Andreas
Gestrich, Absolutismus und Offentlichkeit. Politische Kommunikation in Deutschland zu
Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts (Gottingen, 1994), esp. pp. 11“33, which emphasises the
importance of international politics and legal debates in provoking the formation of a
responsive ˜public™ well before the advent of the economic upheavals which Habermas
saw as the primary cause for the public sphere™s formation; and Craig Calhoun, ed.,
Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, MA and London, 1992), especially the
editor™s introduction, pp. 1“48.
15 Blanning, The Culture of Power, p. 12.
16 Christian Erich Rochow, Das b¨ rgerliche Trauerspiel (Stuttgart, 1999); Lothar Piku-
lik, B¨ rgerliches Trauerspiel und Emp¬ndsamkeit (Cologne, 1966); Jochen Schult-Sasse,
Briefwechsel uber das Trauerspiel. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn, Friedrich
Nicolai (Munich, 1972); Claudia Albert, Der melancholische B¨ rger. Ausbildung b¨ rgerlicher
u u
Deutungsmuster im Trauerspiel Diderots und Lessings (Frankfurt a.M., 1983).
17 Reinhardt Koselleck, Kritik und Krise. Studien zur Pathogenese der b¨ rgerlichen Gesellschaft
(Freiburg and Munich, 1961), translated into English as Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment
and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society (Oxford, 1988).
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 185

more sensitive than most to the ¬ner nuances of historical Grundbegriffe,18
did not use the term b¨ rgerlich as synonymous with middle-class. It seems,
then, that a different translation is needed, although neither Koselleck
himself nor those who followed in his footsteps could agree on a single
The following pages attempt to sketch some ways in which we may
be able to make sense of the self-proclaimed b¨ rgerlich character of
eighteenth-century culture while being mindful of the need to elimi-
nate economic determinism and ˜bring the state back in™. To this end,
I shall focus upon a particular dimension of Germany™s cultural life in
this period, which is almost taken for granted among historians of liter-
ature, but which political historians all too often relegate to the margins
of their inquiries. This is the pivotal role of the small, even tiny, terri-
tories of the Holy Roman Empire in shaping the cultural and political
life of eighteenth-century Germany. The courts of these miniature states
proved a particularly fertile breeding ground for Germany™s cultural revo-
lution. As with their much bigger neighbour, Frederick the Great™s Prus-
sia, here, too, the state drove cultural innovation, and the larger number
of independent courts, compared with most other European states at
the time, multiplied opportunities for such favourable cultural patron-
age (and more or less neutralised the in¬‚uence of those courts which
resisted such innovations). In another sense, though, the smaller territo-
ries did more than just mimic the situation in Berlin. Although Frederick
II patronised intellectuals and uttered prophetic statements about the
dawn of German culture, he also remained hostile to much that was
new and innovative in Germany™s cultural revolution in this period.19 By
comparison, princes like Carl August of Saxe-Weimar or Prince Leopold
Friedrich Franz III of Anhalt-Dessau embraced not only the principle of
public debate and that ¬‚agship policy of Enlightenment public relations,
religious toleration. They also engaged with and contributed to those
cultural innovations which Frederick II himself rejected: the storm and
stress movement, sentimentality and the gothic revival. Because these
movements, more than the courtly idioms of rococo and neo-classicism
cultivated at courts like Sanssouci,20 were generally dubbed b¨ rgerlich by

18 Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck, eds., Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe.
Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland (8 vols., Stuttgart, 1972“
19 Horst Steinmetz, ed., Friedrich II., K¨ nig von Preußen, und die deutsche Literatur des
achtzehnten Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart, 1985).
20 On Sanssouci, see Michael Hassels, ed., Potsdamer, Schl¨ sser und G¨ rten: Bau-
o a
und Gartenkunst vom 17. bis 20. Jahrhundert (Potsdam, 1993); Hermann Heck-
mann, Baumeister des Barock und Rokoko in Brandenburg-Preussen (Berlin, 1998); and
186 Maiken Umbach

contemporaries, the smaller states can shed more light on the complicated
nexus between b¨ rgerlich culture and political power.21
There is one, very obvious sense in which the new culture was indeed
b¨ rgerlich. Although certainly not the product of a predominantly bour-
geois and burgher milieu, the culture sponsored by princes in this era
(and most of those who came before them) was mainly produced by
writers, artists and composers from non-aristocratic backgrounds: they
might have smuggled a b¨ rgerlich agenda into the courtly realm. Yet this
was nothing new. Moreover, this kind of German B¨ rgertum was not
connected to a commercial middle class, much less an industrial one:
the courts of the empire, by offering employment opportunities to the
educated classes, and by sponsoring the education which quali¬ed them
for these positions in the ¬rst place,22 had themselves played a major
role in the creation of this Bildungsb¨ rgertum. The relationship between
b¨ rgerlich cultural producers and their princely patrons and employers is
better understood as a symbiosis. Artists and architects depended on the
courts, but they were more than simple executors of princely orders. The
same applies to those who worked as what we might, anachronistically,
call public relations advisors. Princely palaces were built, portraitists cho-
sen, collections assembled and gardens designed with the input of a host
of expert advisors, who could bring their own tastes and cultural sensibili-
ties to bear on projects, especially where princes were eager to embrace the
latest cultural trends and styles. Weimar classicism was not the product of

Hans-Joachim Kadatz, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. Baumeister Friedrichs II.
(Leipzig, 1983). A useful collection of primary sources on rococo taste is Franz Blei and
Heinz Puknus, Geist und Sitten des Rokoko (Munich, 1966). In distinguishing between
courtly and b¨ rgerlich cultures, what literary scholars have dubbed the Weimar Klas-
sik occupies a curious intermediate position. While linked with the allegedly b¨ rgerlich
aesthetics of ˜genius™, as the name implies, the literary Klassik was also characterised
by af¬nities with the aesthetics of neo-classicism, which was widely regarded as an
aristocratic style. The following represent cornerstones in the debate about this concept:
Hans Pyritz, ˜Der Bund zwischen Goethe und Schiller. Zur Kl¨ rung des Problems der
sogenannten Weimarer Klassik™, Publications of the English Goethe Society NS 21 (1952),
pp. 27“55; Walter H. Bruford, Culture and Society in Classical Weimar, 1775“1806 (Cam-
bridge, 1962); Terence James Reed, The Classical Centre: Goethe and Weimar, 1775“1832
(London, 1980); Dieter Borchmeyer, Weimarer Klassik. Portrait einer Epoche (Weinheim,
21 Lothar Pikulik, Leistungsethik contra Gef¨ hlsethik. Uber das Verh¨ ltnis von B¨ rgerlichkeit und
u a u
Emp¬ndsamkeit in Deutschland (Gottingen, 1984); Werner Busch, Das sentimentalische
Bild. Die Krise der Kunst im 18. Jahrhundert und die Geburt der Moderne (Munich,
1993); H. B. Nisbet, ed., German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism: Winckelmann, Less-
ing, Hamann, Herder, Schiller, Goethe (Cambridge, 1985); Martin Swales, The German
Bildungsroman from Wieland to Hesse (Princeton, 1978).
22 An exemplary study of this process is James Van Horn Melton, Absolutism and the
Eighteenth-Century Origins of Compulsory Schooling in Prussia and Austria (Cambridge,
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 187

Carl August™s mind, but an invention of Goethe and Schiller, generously
patronised by the prince eager to be seen as a cultural innovator. Likewise,
in Anhalt-Dessau, Prince Franz relied on a team of experts to give con-
crete expression to his reformist aspirations. His neo-Palladian villa and
landscape garden were designed by Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmanns-
dorff, who was also the brain behind the Chalcographie, a model com-
pany set up to mass-produce affordable prints of worthy works of art.23
Dessau™s new model schools were created by Johann Bernhard Basedow,
another B¨ rger, who in turn derived much inspiration from the peda-
gogic ideas of the English scientist Joseph Priestley.24 The list could be
It would be wrong, however, to regard Carl August and Franz merely
as facilitators of the rise of b¨ rgerlich artists and experts. In Anhalt-
Dessau, none of Franz™s advisors had the same creative energy or the
ability to sniff out and foster the most interesting and innovative cultural
trends as the prince himself. Michael Sturmer recognised as much in
his essay of 1993, which he ironically entitled ˜Burgerliche Fursten™.25
¨ ¨
In it, Sturmer focuses on the origins of the Biedermeier style in German

23 On Erdmannsdorff, see Staatliche Schlosser und G¨ rten Worlitz, eds., Friedrich Wilhelm
¨ a ¨
von Erdmannsdorff, 1736“1800. Leben, Werk, Wirkung (Worlitz, 1987), as well as Ralph
Torsten Speler, ed., Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff, 1736“1800. Literarische Zeug-
nisse (Dessau, 1986); and Hans-Joachim Kadatz, Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff.
Wegbereiter des Fr¨ hklassizismus in Anhalt-Dessau (Berlin, 1986). On the Chalcographie,
see Susanne Netzer, Die Chalcographische Gesellschaft zu Dessau. Pro¬l eines Kunstverlages
um 1800 (Coburg, 1987); and more generally, Antony Grif¬ths and Frances Carey, eds.,
German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe (London, 1994). On Prince Franz™s artistic advi-
sors, see also Erhart Hirsch, Dessau-W¨ rlitz. Zierde und Inbegriff des XVIII. Jahrhunderts
(2nd edn, Munich, 1988); Erhart Hirsch, ˜Winckelmann und seine Dessauer Schuler™, ¨
in J. Dummer and M. Kunze, eds., Antikerezeption, Antikeverh¨ ltnis, Antikebegegnung
in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Eine Aufsatzsammlung, II: Von Winckelmann zum Klas-
sizismus (Stendhal, 1988); Andreas Bechtoldt and Thomas Weiß, eds., Weltbild W¨ rlitz. o
Entwurf einer Kulturlandschaft (Worlitz, 1996).
24 Johann Bernhard Basedow, Vorstellung an Menschenfreunde und verm¨ gende M¨ nner uber
o a ¨
Schulen und Studien und ihren Ein¬‚uß in die offentliche Wohlfahrt (1768, reprint ed. H.
Lorenz, Leipzig, 1893); and Basedow, Elementarwerk f¨ r die Jugend und ihre Freunde
(4 vols., Dessau, 1774). Basedow™s work is discussed in Maiken Umbach, Federalism
and Enlightenment in Germany, 1740“1806 (London and Ohio, 2000). On the English
model: Lutz Rossner, Die P¨ dagogik des englischen Experimentalphilosophen Joseph Priestley
¨ a
(Frankfurt a.M., 1986).
25 Michael Sturmer, ˜Burgerliche Fursten™, in Wolfgang Hardtwig and Harm-Hinrich
¨ ¨ ¨
Brandt, eds., Deutschlands Weg in die Moderne. Politik, Gesellschaft und Kultur im 19.
Jahrhundert (Munich, 1993), pp. 215“22, citation from pp. 218“19; and Sturmer, ¨
˜Ho¬sche Kultur und fruhmoderne Unternehmer. Zur Okonomie des Luxus im 18.
¨ ¨
Jahrhundert™, Historische Zeitschrift 229 (1979), pp. 265“97. A similar case for the pri-
macy of princely taste is made in Friedrich Sengle, Das Genie und sein F¨ rst. Die Geschichte
der Lebensgemeinschaft Goethes mit dem Herzog Carl August von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach.
Ein Beitrag zum Sp¨ tfeudalismus und zu einem vernachl¨ ssigten Thema der Goetheforschung
a a
(Stuttgart, 1993).
188 Maiken Umbach

furniture design, allegedly the epitome of b¨ rgerlich consciousness. David
Roentgen™s austere and simpli¬ed neo-classicism, he demonstrates, was
in fact derivative of Erdmannsdorff ™s designs for Worlitz. And because
Erdmannsdorff had done little more than execute what Prince Franz him-
self had thought up, in Sturmer™s view, this example exposes the whole
myth of German B¨ rgerlichkeit as a princely invention “ in much the same
ways as the folksy fairy tales collected by the brothers Grimm were often
derivative of medieval courtly poetry.26
To subscribe to Sturmer™s conclusion is to chuck out the baby with
the bathwater. Princes were incapable of realising their vision without
their b¨ rgerlich underlings. Instead of declaring one or the other group as
dominant, we need to recognise that the peculiar cultural dynamism of the
smaller German courts in this period was based on a mutually bene¬cial
alliance of b¨ rgerlich and princely agendas. Two factors account for this.
First, a very speci¬c political situation in the Holy Roman Empire made
several reigning German princes predisposed to collaborate with, or even
to hijack, the agenda of B¨ rgerlichkeit. Second, these princes also acted to
protect the b¨ rgerlich milieu against its tendency towards self-destruction.
I shall discuss these two factors in turn.
For eighteenth-century writers, the notion of B¨ rgerlichkeit was not
a class attribute. Instead, it designated a moral disposition. Perhaps its
most iconic representation was a series of cartoons by Daniel Nikolaus
Chodowiecki. Chodowiecki, director of the Berlin Kunstakademie, was
a particularly proli¬c artist, who created over 2,000 aquafortes, 30 oil
paintings and around 4,000 drawings, many of which illustrated liter-
ary texts that enjoyed particular popularity among eighteenth-century
sentimentalists.27 The year 1779 saw the publication of a particularly
emblematic series of engravings entitled ˜Natural and affected acts of
life™, which were published with a commentary by Georg Christoph
Lichtenberg. The ¬rst two sets of these juxtapositions use German- and
French-language titles to identify German B¨ rgerlichkeit with the ˜natu-
ral™, and French aristocratic styles with the ˜affected™. The titles of the ¬rst
series were Der Unterricht / L™instruction, Die Unterredung / La conversa-
tion, Das Gebeth / La pri`re, Der Spatzier-Gang / La promenade, Der Grus /
La r´v´rence (described by Lichtenberg as a ˜veritable masterpiece in the

26 Elmer H. Antonsen, James W. Marchand and Ladislav Zgusta, eds., The Grimm Brothers
and the Germanic Past (Amsterdam and Philadelphia, 1990); Lothar Bluhm, Grimm-
Philologie. Beitr¨ ge zur M¨ rchenforschung und Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Hildesheim, 1995).
a a
27 Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (1726“1801) und seine Zeit (exhibition catalogue, Dusseldorf
and London, 2001); Werner Busch, ˜The Reception of Hogarth in Chodowiecki and
Kaulbach™, Zeitschrift des deutschen Vereins f¨ r Kunstwissenschaft 46 (1992), pp. 9“19;
Renate Kruger, Das Zeitalter der Emp¬ndsamkeit. Kunst und Kultur des sp¨ ten 18. Jahrhun-
¨ a
derts in Deutschland (Vienna and Munich, 1972).
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 189

way it visualised unspeakable courtly sweetness™).28 In each case, the
b¨ rgerlich attitude is one of quiet introspection, a generally unassuming
habitus, an almost Pietist sensibility and, in the case of exterior scenes, a
natural setting resembling a landscape garden. The corresponding poses
of aristocratic affectation are identi¬ed through pompous rococo cos-
tumes, exaggerated gestures and, in the exteriors, the arti¬cially trimmed
hedges of a baroque garden. Similar typologies were constructed in lit-
erary texts of the period, most famously Lessing™s dramas, such as Miss
Sara Sampson and Emilia Galotti, in which virtuous b¨ rgerlich heroines
modelled on Richardson™s Pamela have to ¬ght off the immoral advances
of decadent princely tempters.29 The b¨ rgerlich alternative to the cor-
ruption that was being chastised here was by no means con¬ned to a
particular socio-economic milieu. Rather, it was a moral persuasion that
could be adopted by any feeling individual. While both Sara Sampson
and Emilia Galotti meet a sad end, there is at least a hint in both plays
that their sacri¬ce works to convert the decadent prince to the b¨ rgerlich
If for Chodowiecki and Lessing B¨ rgerlichkeit denoted morality, hon-
esty and self-restraint, from the later 1770s it also came to designate a
new cult of the autonomous individual, and self-cultivation. The B¨ rgeru
was a self-made man “ not, or not primarily, in the economic sense, but as
the master of his own spiritual fate, which was realised through a process
of Bildung.30 In this context, the B¨ rger moved even further away from
a realistic social milieu, and became an ideal type, a Promethean ¬gure
who embodied a cultural aspiration rather than any real person or per-
sons. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre was the paradigmatic novel illustrating
this process of b¨ rgerlich self-building.31 The construction of the heroic

28 Ingrid Sommer, ed., Der Fortgang der Tugend und des Lasters. Daniel Chodowieckis
Monatskuppfer zum G¨ ttinger Taschenkalender, mit Erkl¨ rungen Georg Christoph Lichten-
o a
bergs (2nd edn, Frankfurt a.M., 1977).
29 The subtitle b¨ rgerliches Trauerspiel of Lessing™s principal dramas has led to a prolifera-
tion of studies on Lessing as an exponent of eighteenth-century B¨ rgerlichkeit, for exam-
ple in Claudia Albert, Der melancholische B¨ rger. Ausbildung b¨ rgerlicher Deutungsmuster
u u
im Trauerspiel Diderots und Lessings (Frankfurt a.M., 1983); Manfred Durzak, Zu Got-
thold Ephraim Lessing. Poesie im B¨ rgerlichen Zeitalter (Stuttgart, 1984); Dieter Hilde-
brandt, Lessing. Biographie einer Emanzipation (Munich and Vienna, 1979); Walter Jens,
In Sachen Lessing. Vortr¨ ge und Essays (Stuttgart, 1983); Edward M. Batley, Catalyst of
Enlightenment: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Productive Criticism of Eighteenth-Century Ger-
many (Bern, Frankfurt a.M., New York, Paris, 1990).
30 Walter Horace Bruford, The German Tradition of Self-Cultivation (Cambridge, 1975);
Georg Bollenbeck, Bildung und Kultur. Glanz und Elend eines deutschen Deutungsmusters
(Frankfurt a.M. and Leipzig, 1994).
31 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, ed. Erich Trunz, in Goethes
Werke, Hamburger Ausgabe, vol. VII (Munich, 1981). See also Hellmut Ammerlahn,
˜The Marriage of Artist Novel and Bildungsroman: Goethe™s Wilhelm Meister, a Paradigm
in Disguise™, German Life and Letters 59/1 (2006), pp. 25“46; Jurgen Jacobs, Wilhelm
190 Maiken Umbach

self owed much to the aesthetics of genius, commonly associated with
the storm and stress epoch.32 Yet it is also important to bear in mind
that in Goethe™s successor novel to his classic Bildungsroman, entitled
Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre and published in two versions in 1821 and
1829 respectively, the discovery of a ˜vocation™ reunited the contemplative
and the practical lives of the emancipated b¨ rgerlich individual.33 While
Bildung involved introspection, this did not preclude a political
application: even in its purely literary manifestation, the cult of the
b¨ rgerlich ego was linked to an agenda for social transformation.
If B¨ rgerlichkeit in later eighteenth-century Germany denoted both a
new moralism and a new individualism, both suited the political require-
ments of German small-state rulers. The minor princes of the empire “
especially those who cultivated an image as ˜Enlightened absolutists™ “
courted German public opinion as an important ally. This was par-
ticularly acute because such territories had little hope of defending
their autonomy by military means against the expansionist aspirations
of both Austria and Prussia. This dilemma was dramatised by the War
of the Bavarian Succession in 1778“9, which led to both major powers

Meister und seine Br¨ der. Untersuchungen zum deutschen Bildungsroman (Munich, 1972);
Jacobs, ˜Reine und sichere T¨ tigkeit. Zum Bildungskonzept in Goethes Wilhelm Meis-
ter™, P¨ dagogische Rundschau 53/4 (1999), pp. 411“23; Hannelore Schlaffer, Wilhelm
Meister. Das Ende der Kunst und die Wiederkehr des Mythos (Stuttgart, 1980); Friedrich A.
Kittler, ˜Uber die Sozialisation Wilhelm Meisters™, in Gerhard Kaiser and Kittler, eds.,
Dichtung als Sozialisationsspiel. Studien zu Goethe und Gottfried Keller (Gottingen, 1978);
Michael Beddow, The Fiction of Humanity: Studies in the Bildungsroman from Wieland
to Thomas Mann, Anglica Germanica Series 2 (Cambridge, 1982), esp. pp. 63“158;
Franco Moretti, The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture (London,
1987), esp. pp. 15“73; Michael Minden, The German Bildungsroman: Incest and Inheri-
tance (Cambridge, 1997).
32 Jochen Schmidt, Die Geschichte des Genie-Gedankens in der deutschen Literatur, Philosophie
und Politik, 1750“1945 (Darmstadt, 1985); Nicholas Boyle, Goethe: The Poet and the
Age, I: The Poetry of Desire, 1749“1790 (Oxford, 1991); Dieter Borchmeyer, H¨ ¬sche o
Gesellschaft und Franz¨ sische Revolution bei Goethe. Adliges und b¨ rgerliches Wertsystem im
o u
Urteil der Weimarer Klassik (Kronberg, 1977).
33 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre oder Die Entsagenden, ed.
Erich Trunz, in Goethes Werke, Hamburger Ausgabe, vol. VIII (Munich, 1973), pp. 7“
516 (and commentary pp. 517“690). See also Anneliese Klingenberg, Goethes Roman
˜Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre oder die Entsagenden™. Quellen und Komposition, Beitr¨ ge zur
Deutschen Klassik (Berlin and Weimar, 1972); Ehrhard Bahr, ˜Wilhelm Meisters Wan-
derjahre oder die Entsagenden™, Goethe-Handbuch, vol. III (Stuttgart and Weimar, 1997),
pp. 186“231; Joachim Pfeiffer, ˜Von Prometheus zum Wandererbund. Das Verh¨ ltnis vona
Kunstlertum, Kreativit¨ t und Masochismus bei Goethe™, CollGerm 30 (1997), pp. 121“9;
¨ a
Gonthier-Louis Fink, ˜Die P¨ dagogik und die Forderungen des Tages in Wilhelm Meis-
ters Wanderjahren™, Euphorion 93/2 (1999), pp. 251“91; Klaus F. Gille, ˜Wilhelm Meisters
kulturpolitische Sendung™, Weimarer Beitr¨ ge 45 (1999), pp. 432“43; Manfred Engel,
˜Modernisierungskrise und neue Ethik in Goethes Roman Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre
oder Die Entsagenden™, in Henning Kossler, ed., Wertwandel und neue Subjektivit¨ t. F¨ nf
¨ a u
Vortr¨ ge (Erlangen, 2000), pp. 87“111.
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 191

infringing upon the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of such territo-
ries by recruiting outside their own borders.34 In this political climate, for
minor rulers to be seen to be setting new moral standards in government
could only be advantageous.35
At the same time, a useful parallel could be drawn between the auton-
omy of the celebrated b¨ rgerlich individual, and the individualism of small
political units which, so these rulers wished to suggest, enriched the polit-
ical culture of the Holy Roman Empire as a whole. This was helped by the
fact that the process of abstraction, which turned the idea of the B¨ rger
into an ideal type “ a Promethean new man “ meant that the concept
could also be transferred from an imagined individual to an imagined
polity. Johann Gottfried Herder had argued that, like the ideal-typical
individual of the storm and stress epoch, every nation had its ˜individual
genius™.36 The same notion could be applied to the German principalities:
such polities, though hardly signi¬cant on a world-political stage, were
deemed to have a ˜character™ in their own right. The genius of the German
nation arose from the multiplicity of political individualities encapsulated
in the imperial territories.
Such arguments were frequently made in the context of the imperial
reform movement of the later eighteenth century. Here, we can distin-
guish between two factions: those reformers who looked to the medieval
empire as a precedent, and those who, instead, turned their attentions
to the Reich of the Renaissance.37 Justus Moser is an exemplar of this
34 These political dynamics are explored in more detail in my work on ˜The Politics of
Sentimentality and the German F¨ rstenbund™, Historical Journal 41 (1998), pp. 679“704.
35 On the connection between courtly life and public opinion in the Holy Roman Empire
during the late Enlightenment, see Andreas Gestrich, Absolutismus und Offentlichkeit.
Politische Kommunikation in Deutschland zu Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts (Gottingen, 1994),
esp. pp. 11“33; Craig Calhoun, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, MA and
London, 1992), especially the editor™s introduction, pp. 1“48; James Van Horn Melton,
The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe (Cambridge, 2001); Thomas Biskup, ˜The
Politics of Monarchism: Royalty, Loyalty and Patriotism in Later Eighteenth-Century
Prussia™ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 2001); Hans-Wolf J¨ ger,
ed., ˜Offentlichkeit im 18. Jahrhundert™, Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert “ Supplementa 4
36 Johann Gottfried Herder, Another Philosophy of History and Selected Political Writings,
trans. and introduced by Ioannis D. Evrigenis and Daniel Pellerin (Indianapolis and
Cambridge, 2004). A useful introduction is Frederick M. Barnard, Herder on Nationality,
Humanity, and History (Montreal and London, 2003).
37 Useful overviews of the imperial reform debate are provided by Michael Hughes, ˜Fiat
justitia, pereat Germania? The Imperial Supreme Jurisdiction and Imperial Reform in
the Later Holy Roman Empire™, in John Breuilly, ed., The State of Germany: The
National Idea in the Making, Unmaking, and Remaking of a Modern National State
(London, 1992); and Horst Dippel, ˜Der Verfassungsdiskurs im ausgehenden 18.
Jahrhundert und die Grundlegung einer liberaldemokratischen Verfassungstradition in
Deutschland™, in Dippel, ed., Die Anf¨ nge des Konstitutionalismus in Deutschland. Texte
deutscher Verfassungsentw¨ rfe am Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt, 1991), pp. 7“44.
192 Maiken Umbach

˜medievalist™ faction. In his Patriotische Phantasien of 1770, he advocated
maximum autonomy for the imperial Estates.38 This was the most rad-
ical formulation of an argument which equated freedom with the com-
plete absence of any imperial ˜interference™. As Moser™s title indicates,
however, his was not written as an ˜accurate™ historical account. Rather,
these ˜fantasies™ presented an imaginative vision of small-state autonomy
pushed to extremes, based on what he perceived as a medieval notion of
individual honour, which had been superseded by the mechanisation and
instrumentalisation of individuals in the modern age, especially in mod-
ern warfare. A less radical stance was promoted by eighteenth-century
reformers who took not the medieval, but the sixteenth-century empire
as a model (or more accurately: the empire as it emerged after the founda-
tion of the Imperial Cameral Court in 1495). According to legal theorists
such as Johann Stephan Putter, Friedrich Karl Moser, Karl Friedrich
H¨ berlin, A. L. von Schlozer, Otto Heinrich Freiherr von Gemmingen,
a ¨
Wilhelm Ludwig Wekhrlin and many others, small-state individualism
had to be protected by an imperial umbrella structure, a legal framework
that harmonised relationships between the ˜individuals™ “ i.e. the different
polities “ that constituted the indivisible imperial ˜body™.39
These arguments gained topicality in the negotiations about the for-
mation of a F¨ rstenbund in 1779, originally conceived as an alliance of the
smaller territories against both Borussian and Habsburg expansionism.
The princes at the heart of the scheme, Franz of Anhalt-Dessau and Carl
August of Saxe-Weimar, were inspired by the idea that the relationship
between the imperial territories could be modelled on the relationship
between ideal-typical B¨ rger: every territory had a distinctive character,
yet the polities would be united by common sentiment and ˜friendship™.
˜I hope especially that a close tie of friendship . . . might unite within
the imperial system our disjoined intentions, interests and forces,™ wrote
Carl August of Saxe-Weimar,40 and Franz von Anhalt-Dessau agreed

38 Justus Moser, ˜Der hohe Stil der Kunst unter den Deutschen™, in S¨ mtliche Werke, ed.
¨ a
W. Kohlschmidt et al., IV: Patriotische Phantasien I (Oldenburg, 1949, originally 1770),
pp. 263“8. Cf. Jonathan B. Knudsen, Justus M¨ ser and the German Enlightenment (Cam-
bridge, 1986); and Jan Schroder, ˜Justus Moser™, in Michael Stolleis, ed., Staatsdenker
¨ ¨
in der fr¨ hen Neuzeit (Munich, 1995), pp. 294“309.
39 Cf. Hanns Gross, Empire and Sovereignty: A History of the Public Law Literature of the
Holy Roman Empire, 1559“1804 (London and Chicago, 1973); and Michael Stolleis,
Geschichte des offentlichen Rechts in Deutschland (2 vols., Munich, 1988“92), I: Reichs-
publizistik und Policeywissenschaft, 1600“1800, pp. 298“333, and II: Staatsrechtslehre und
Verwaltungswissenschaft, 1800“1914, pp. 39“57.
40 Carl August to Otto Ferdinand Freiherr von Loeben, 30 March 1788, in Willy Andreas
and Hans Tummler, eds., Politischer Briefwechsel des Herzogs und Großherzogs Carl August
von Weimar (2 vols., Stuttgart, 1954), I: Von den Anf¨ ngen der Regierung bis zum Ende des
F¨ rstenbundes 1778“1790, pp. 465“6.
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 193

that ˜friendship ties™ should bind the small states together into a single
˜organism™.41 Traces of this argument can even be found in the works
of Goethe, who remained critical of his patron™s intentions to revive the
imperial constitution in a b¨ rgerlich light.42
It is clear, then, that the agenda of B¨ rgerlichkeit suited the particu-
lar requirements and ambitions of minor German princes in more than
one way. That is not to say that B¨ rgerlichkeit was simply hijacked to
promote power politics. In a curious twist, the same princes played an
important role in saving b¨ rgerlich culture from its tendency towards self-
emasculation. It was a dilemma with which Goethe himself was only
too familiar. After all, the attribute of B¨ rgerlichkeit could be applied,
with equal justi¬cation, to at least two characters in The Sorrows of Young
Werther. First, there is Werther himself: the prototypical b¨ rgerlich hero of
a new age. Second, however, there is his adversary, Albert, loosely mod-
elled on the real-life ¬gure of a Frankfurt merchant, Peter Brentano. In
Albert, b¨ rgerlich designates not the aesthetics of genius, but a tendency
towards pedantry, petty-mindedness and intellectual conservatism of the
academic sort: all qualities which later reached their apex in the culture
of Biedermeier, which con¬rmed the symbiosis of B¨ rgerlichkeit and a
profoundly risk-averse attitude in things cultural and political.43 The his-
tory of music provides particularly instructive examples of this trend. In
a detailed statistical survey on house music, Nicolai Petrat shows that
in the Biedermeier era, the aesthetically challenging genre of the sonata
declined, from 33% of new compositions in 1818, via 6% in 1833 to
just 3% in 1848. It was replaced by simpler and more ˜harmless™ musical
forms, such as the potpourri (1818: 2.5%, 1843: 27.5%).44 The All-
gemeine musikalische Zeitung contrasted a golden age where ˜Mozart™s
and Haydn™s sonatas were appreciated and performed by an emotion-
ally sophisticated musical public™ and ˜elevated in spirit by virtue of their
inner substance, dignity, splendour, sentimental gravitas and loveliness™,
with a present time in which the piano in the home ˜is considered by all

41 Franz to Carl August, Worlitz, 29 October / 1 November 1784, printed in Andreas and
Tummler, Politischer Briefwechsel, I, p. 110. This is discussed in greater detail in Umbach,
˜The Politics of Sentimentality™.
42 Georg Schmidt, ˜Goethe. Politisches Denken und regional orientierte Praxis im Alten
Reich™, Goethe-Jahrbuch 112 (1995), pp. 197“212. By focusing on Goethe™s practical
involvement in politics, Schmidt portrays Goethe™s view of the empire in a more positive
light than the poet™s surviving written comments on the subject would suggest.
43 See Renate Kruger, Biedermeier. Eine Lebenshaltung zwischen 1815 und 1848 (Vienna,
1979); Rudolf Brandmeyer, Biedermeierroman und Krise der st¨ ndischen Ordnung. Stu-
dien zum literarischen Konservatismus (Tubingen, 1982); Dominic R. Stone, The Art of
Biedermeier (London, 1990).
44 Nicolai Petrat, Hausmusik des Biedermeier im Blickpunkt der zeitgen¨ ssischen Fachpresse,
1815“1848 (Hamburg, 1986), p. 64.
194 Maiken Umbach

classes as a piece of furniture even more essential than the washing bas-
ket, sewing table or a key cupboard™.45 And when another critic wrote:
˜the more devoid of content, the more super¬cial, the more lacking in
serious meaning, the more welcome and pleasant [music is held to be];
the more unnoticed musical notes drift past the ear, the more diverting
and delectable they are considered™,46 he summarised what many con-
temporaries thought of as the very nature of b¨ rgerlich culture in the age
of Biedermeier.
To be fair, the image of an unpolitical German culture has rightly
been criticised in scholarship of the past few decades. There is the obvi-
ous point that German Romanticism fostered an alliance between cul-
ture and nationalism which was by no means politically neutral “ most
obviously so in the way it transformed the so-called Wars of Liberation
into a foundational myth of German identity, with obvious repercussions
for Franco-German relations.47 More broadly, Theodore Ziolkowski has
made a persuasive case for foregrounding Romanticism™s formative role
in the evolution of German political and social institutions; the Roman-
tic writer, he wrote, was ˜oriented not only toward the in¬nite and
the miraculous but also toward the social actuality of his times™.48 It
is equally true that, in the run-up to 1848, so-called Vorm¨ rz authors
such as Georg Buchner produced what, in modern terminology, might
be called a subversive or counter-cultural movement.49 Yet both these
movements, notwithstanding the social milieus from which their prin-
cipal artists and writers emerged, de¬ned themselves as anti-b¨ rgerlich.
Nor did the association between B¨ rgerlichkeit and an emasculated cul-
ture come to an end in 1848. While Wagner™s operas created an ambi-
tious Gesamtkunstwerk, the type of musical performance that was princi-
pally associated with the values of B¨ rgerlichkeit, even in the years around
1900, remained Biedermeier-style Hausmusik. Every decent middle-class
home had to contain a special music chamber dedicated to such amateur
performances. ˜In a country where music is as important as in Germany™,

45 August Kanne, Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 1818, quoted in Petrat, Hausmusik des
Biedermeier, pp. 82“3.
46 Anonymous review, Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 1819, quoted in Petrat, Hausmusik
des Biedermeier, p. 92.
47 On Romanticism™s association with German nationalism, see Keith Hartley et al., eds.,
The Romantic Spirit in German Art, 1790“1990 (London, 1994); and Roy Porter and
Mikul´ s Teich, eds., Romanticism in National Context (Cambridge, 1988). On the anti-

Napoleonic ˜Wars of Liberation™ as a Romantic trope, see Hagen Schulze, The Course of
German Nationalism: From Frederick the Great to Bismarck (Cambridge, 1990).
48 Theodore Ziolkowski, German Romanticism and its Institutions (Princeton, 1990), p. 15.
49 James Crighton, B¨ chner and Madness: Schizophrenia in Georg B¨ chner™s Lenz and Woyzeck
u u
(Lewiston, NY, 1998); Maurice B. Benn, The Drama of Revolt: A Critical Study of Georg
B¨ chner (Cambridge, 1976).
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 195

Hermann Muthesius wrote, ˜the music chamber assumes a very special
signi¬cance in the house . . . It is true that the piano or grand piano is
part of the standard furniture of the house in many countries, especially
in the Anglo-Saxon world. Yet abroad, music is nowhere near as highly
developed as in the German house.™50 In the visual arts, too, Biedermeier
and B¨ rgerlichkeit had become almost synonymous by 1900. Although
Paul Mebes used both terms approvingly in his in¬‚uential book,51 most
cultural observers of the day, Muthesius included, argued that German
B¨ rgerlichkeit was feeble, subservient and imitating aristocratic lifestyles
rather than driving cultural innovation: ˜we seem to be ashamed of the
very thing which should make us proud, our B¨ rgertum™.52
It is no coincidence that concerns about the tendency of b¨ rgerlich
culture towards the trivial and the conventional had ¬rst arisen in the
immediate aftermath of the Old Reich™s destruction. This tendency was
not just apparent in cultural production “ it was also, and perhaps even
more acutely, a problem of cultural consumption. Cultural historians
of the Biedermeier era have rightly chipped away at the image of a
purely reactionary epoch, emphasising instead the profoundly ambiva-
lent role of its b¨ rgerlich culture vis-` -vis the modernisation process. This
u a
is evident in the literature of the older Goethe as much as in the music
of Schubert and Wagner. Yet if the culture of the post-Reich decades
was marked by a precarious balancing act between harmony and dis-
sonance, unity and multiplicity, wholeness and fragmentation, it is also
true to say there existed a marked tendency in the b¨ rgerlich milieu at
large to neutralise and ˜disarm™ such creative tensions, politically and
In this attitude to culture, the contrast between the post-Revolutionary
b¨ rgerlich public and princely patronage of the pre-Revolutionary era
is most apparent. Characteristically, Goethe himself experienced this
change not as a liberation, but as a threat: the Weimar Klassik was tamed,
its literary works cleansed of all ambiguities and critical undertones, even
the rich and oscillating meanings of Goethe™s innovative vocabulary of
this period were elevated to the status of a new normativity, and hence
solidi¬ed. Such a b¨ rgerlich attitude was epitomised by the Boswellian

50 Hermann Muthesius, ˜Das Musikzimmer™, in Almanach, ed. Velhagen und Klasings
Monatshefte (Berlin, Bielefeld, Leipzig, Vienna, vol. I, n.d. (1908)), pp. 222“37, quo-
tation p. 222.
51 Paul Mebes, Um 1800. Architektur und Handwerk im letzten Jahrhundert ihrer traditionellen
Entwicklung (2 vols., Munich, 1908).
52 Hermann Muthesius, Der Kunstwart 17 (1904), p. 469, quoted in Matthew Jefferies,
Politics and Culture in Wilhelmine Germany: The Case of Industrial Architecture (Oxford
and Washington, 1995), pp. 50“1.
196 Maiken Umbach

¬gure of Johann Peter Eckermann (1792“1854).53 An informal assistant
and con¬dant during Goethe™s ¬nal years, Eckermann chronicled many
conversations with the by now world-famous poet. Published four years
after Goethe™s death, Eckermann™s Conversations, heavily edited to suit
Biedermeier tastes, shaped the poet™s public image for decades to come.
A similarly domesticated image of the Weimar Klassik also underlay the
subsequent construction of countless commemorative sites and practices,
which transformed Goethe and Schiller into the heroes of a German
national Renaissance.54 This was a trend which the older Goethe himself
had come to dread. Much of his later “uvre, notably Wilhelm Meisters
Wanderjahre and Faust Part II, actively deconstructed the sense of har-
mony which characterised the b¨ rgerlich reception of the Weimar Klassik.
In such works, the well-rounded self was abandoned, and the notion
of a ¬xed and stable identity dissolved in multilayered ¬ctionalisa-
tions. Scholars as diverse as Walter Benjamin and Hans Pyritz, both
concerned, for different reasons, with the overthrow of the ˜myth™ of
German high classicism, ¬rst drew attention to this process under the
heading of ˜the anti-classical turn™.55 Carl August, it seems, had been
better equipped than Eckermann™s b¨ rgerlich public to embrace the pre-
carious side of the new b¨ rgerlich individualism.56 Thus, in a paradoxical
twist, princely patronage, especially at the minor courts, appears to have
had a stimulating rather than a smothering in¬‚uence on the culture of
heroic B¨ rgerlichkeit.57

53 Johann Peter Eckermann, Gespr¨ che mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens, ed.
Heinrich Hubert Houben (25th edn, Wiesbaden, 1959); Walter Groll und Gunther ¨ ¨
Hagen, eds., Johann Peter Eckermann, Leben und Werk (Winsen-Luhe, 1992); Reiner
Schlichting, ed., Johann Peter Eckermann. Leben im Spannungsfeld Goethes (Weimar,
54 On Goethe monuments and commemorations, see Thomas Nipperdey, ˜Nationalidee
und Nationaldenkmal in Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert™, Historische Zeitschrift 206
(1968), pp. 529“85; Rolf Selbmann, Dichterdenkm¨ ler in Deutschland. Literaturgeschichte
in Erz und Stein (Stuttgart, 1988); Wolfgang Hardtwig, ˜Nationsbildung und politische
Mentalit¨ t. Denkmal und Fest im Kaiserreich™, in Hartwig, ed., Geschichtskultur und
Wissenschaft (Munich, 1990), pp. 264“301; Gert Mattenklott, ˜Denk ich an Deutschland.
Deutsche Denkm¨ ler 1790 bis 1990™, in Meinolf Jansing, ed., Deutsche Nationaldenkmale
(Bielefeld, 1993), pp. 17“49; Ulrich Schlie, Die Nation erinnert sich. Die Denkm¨ ler dera
Deutschen (Munich, 2002).
55 Walter Benjamin, ˜Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften™, Neue deutsche Beitr¨ ge 2 (1925),a
H. 1, pp. 83“138, and H. 2, pp. 134“68; Hans Pyritz, ˜Nachlaßfragment Humanit¨ t und a
Leidenschaft. Goethes gegenklassische Wandlung 1814/1815™, in Hans Pyritz, Goethe-
Studien, ed. Ilse Pyritz (Cologne and Graz, 1962), pp. 34“51.
56 Hans Tummler, Carl August von Weimar, Goethes Freund. Eine vorwiegend politische Biogra-
phie (Stuttgart, 1978); and Tummler, Goethe in Staat und Politik. Gesammelte Aufs¨ tze
¨ a
(Cologne and Graz, 1964).
57 On the equation of post-Reich German culture with B¨ rgerlichkeit, see Erika Wischer,
ed., Propyl¨ en Geschichte der Literatur. Literatur und Gesellschaft der westlichen Welt, V: Das
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 197

Another example can shed more light on this paradox: Worlitz, Franz
of Dessau™s famous residence, has been described as the ˜epitome™ of
eighteenth-century culture in the German lands.58 The estate comprised
not only an ˜ideal™ picturesque landscape, but, set within it, a host of
exhibition pavilions, a model school, public lecture halls as well as green-
houses, stables and so forth devoted to agricultural experimentation. All
of these component parts “ constructed, as detailed above, with the help
of b¨ rgerlich experts “ could be classi¬ed as broadly innovative in the spirit
of Enlightened reform. Yet none could lay claim to achieving something
unique; in fact, many, such as the Chalcographie and the Philanthropin,
were outright failures.59 What made Worlitz so famous throughout Ger-
many was the fact that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
And it is the overall conception that clearly bears the mark of Franz™s
personal intervention: only the vision of a prince united the b¨ rgerlich
reform projects into what became perhaps the most commented-on cul-
tural microcosm of the German Enlightenment. This was not just due to
the sheer size of the operation. Worlitz™s most remarkable quality was its
˜dialogical™ structure. Its composite character thrived on the creative ten-
sion between rationalism and sentimentality, pantheism and Enlighten-
ment, historicism and progressivism.60 The construction of this antitheti-
cal structure was unthinkable without Franz™s personal in¬‚uence. Indeed,
it is the reason why Werner Hofmann, in his seminal study of art between
1750 and 1830, referred to Franz as the ˜foremost representative of bi-
focality™, which he sees as the driving force of cultural innovation in this
period.61 The prince™s role becomes especially apparent when we consider
that Worlitz was largely inspired by Franz™s extensive journeys throughout
Europe. The prince himself rarely recorded the details of his journey “
although his itineraries can be reconstructed using the correspondence

b¨ rgerliche Zeitalter, 1830“1914 (Frankfurt a.M. and Berlin, 1984); Jurgen Reulecke, ed.,
u ¨
Geschichte des Wohnens, vol. III: 1800“1918. Das b¨ rgerliche Zeitalter (Stuttgart, 1997);
Wolfgang J. Mommsen, B¨ rgerliche Kultur und politische Ordnung. K¨ nstler, Schriftsteller
u u
und Intellektuelle in der deutschen Geschichte 1830“1933 (Frankfurt a.M., 2002); Manfred
Hettling and Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, eds., Der b¨ rgerliche Wertehimmel. Innenansichten
des 19. Jahrhunderts (Gottingen, 2000).
58 Erhard Hirsch, Dessau-W¨ rlitz, Zierde und Inbegriff des XVIII. Jahrhunderts (2nd edn,
Munich, 1988). A more detailed and scholarly account of contemporary responses to
the phenomenon of Worlitz is Hirsch, ˜Progressive Leistungen und reaktion¨ re Tenden-
¨ a
zen des Dessau-Worlitzer Kulturkreises in der Rezeption der aufgekl¨ rten Zeitgenossen
¨ a
(1770“1815). Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der deutschen Ideologie im Zeitalter der
Franzosischen Revolution™ (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Halle-Wittenberg, 1969).
59 Netzer, Die Chalcographische Gesellschaft; Umbach, Federalism and Enlightenment in
Germany, pp. 43“57 and 117“27.
60 Umbach, Federalism and Enlightenment, esp. pp. 59“90.
61 Werner Hofmann, Das entzweite Jahrhundert. Kunst zwischen 1750 und 1830 (Munich,
1995), p. 113.
198 Maiken Umbach

and diaries of those whom he visited “ but various of his own staff wrote
detailed accounts of these undertakings.62 The most extensive of these
travel diaries are Erdmannsdorff™s, who acted as Franz™s foremost artistic
advisor, accompanied the prince throughout Europe, and often stayed in
Italy for longer than his patron in order to acquire art for the princely
collection.63 It is curious that Erdmannsdorff™s diaries, describing trips
that inspired the creation of one of Germany™s foremost cultural monu-
ments, make for surprisingly boring reading: there is hardly a single orig-
inal thought in them. Like most dutiful ˜grand tourists™, Erdmannsdorff
spent much of his time admiring canonical artworks and purchasing very
inferior copies of many, which he then used to turn the villa at Worlitz into
an increasingly conventional ˜academic™ museum. In this quest, he was
immune to the aesthetics of sentimentality or the storm and stress move-
ment, both allegedly very b¨ rgerlich cultural moments, which shaped the
appearance of the gardens at Worlitz in decisive ways. It was the prince,
not his b¨ rgerlich advisor, who created the more innovative counterpoints
to these academic tendencies. As soon as the villa of Worlitz, conceived
as an understated Landhaus in a rustic Palladianism, became a showcase
for Erdmannsdorff ™s art collection, Franz himself moved out. He built
a new residence for himself in the gardens, the quirky and unassum-
ing Gotisches Haus, a labyrinthine and entirely unrepresentative struc-
ture, in which he lived a simple life devoted to open-air sports and the
study of agricultural improvement, entirely unencumbered by etiquette

62 My own research into this material included the following manuscript sources: British
Library, Sir William Hamilton, envoy to Naples, correspondence and papers, 1761“
1803, Additional Manuscripts 40714.240716 and 41197.241200; Stadtbibliothek
Dessau / Anhaltinische Landesbibliothek / Herzogliche Bibliothek zu Dessau, HB8089:
Georg Heinrich von Berenhorst, ˜Journal de voyage des princes L´ opold Fr´ d´ ric
e ee
Francois et Jean George d™Anhalt du 18 octobre 1765 jusqu™au 3 mars 1768, con-
duit par de Berenhorst le 19 avril 1775™; and ibid., HS10012: Friedrich Wilhelm von
Erdmannsdorff: Reisetagebuch der zweiten Italienreise 1765“6; Landesarchiv Oranien-
baum des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt (previously Staatsarchiv Magdeburg, Außenstelle
Oranienbaum), Abt. Dessau, A 9e, No. 15 (1“17): Tagebuch der Furstin Louise, origi-
nal autograph; Abt. Dessau, A 10: correspondence of Leopold III. Friedrich Franz von
Anhalt-Dessau; Abt. Dessau, A 10, Film 4783: correspondence of Leopold III. Friedrich
Franz von Anhalt-Dessau; and for the prince™s English tours: Bodleian Library, Oxford,
Department of Western Manuscripts, MS Shelburne Film Dep. 972, 980, 992, 1001;
Public Record Of¬ce, Chatham papers (papers of Hester Grenville, Lord Temple™s sis-
ter) 30/8/7“9; Cottrell-Dormer Family Archive, Rousham, Journal kept by Sir Charles
Cottrell-Dormer, M. C. to George III, Contains a notice of the King™s Marriage to
Queen Charlotte & of the Birth & Christening of George IV.
63 See Erdmannsdorff, Reisetagebuch der zweiten Italienreise; and Erdmannsdorff, Kunsthis-
torisches Journal einer f¨ rstlichen Bildungsreise nach Italien 1765/66, trans. and ed. Ralf-
Torsten Speler (Munich and Berlin, 2001). See also Landesarchiv Oranienbaum, Abt.
Dessau, A 14a, No. 7 (folder concerning the collection of paintings etc. of Leopold III.
Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau).
Culture and B¨ rgerlichkeit
u 199

and convention.64 It is this vision, not Erdmannsdorff™s, which we could
call b¨ rgerlich in the sense of the storm and stress epoch. In an unin-
tended inversion of Sturmer™s idiom of b¨ rgerliche F¨ rsten, it seems that
¨ u u
the minor German princes did indeed prove highly effective guardians of
B¨ rgerlichkeit.
In conclusion, these short sketches may have given some sense of the
importance of B¨ rgerlichkeit as a category, even as we move from soci-
ological towards primarily political explanations of cultural change in
eighteenth-century Germany. As a moral attribute celebrated by major
writers and critics of this period, B¨ rgerlichkeit became a powerful trope.
As such, it was appropriated by princes “ especially, it seems, the minor
rulers of the Holy Roman Empire “ whom it helped in their quest to legiti-
mate their political positions through a new, intensely moralising political
language. In addition, the same rulers also used B¨ rgerlichkeit to defend
the polycentric structure of the empire, by drawing or at least implying
parallels between territorial diversity and the new culture of b¨ rgerlich
individualism. In doing so, they not only became princely champions
of B¨ rgerlichkeit. They also, inadvertently, ensured that German culture
around 1800 became more dynamic and more exciting than a purely
˜bourgeois™ culture might have been. The result, then, was a cultural
idiom that was both princely and b¨ rgerlich.

64 Umbach, Federalism and Enlightenment, esp. pp. 143“60.
10 The politics of language and the languages
of politics: Latin and the vernaculars in
eighteenth-century Hungary

R. J. W Evans
Oriel College, Oxford

The period and place of my title are more strategic in the social history
of language than might at ¬rst appear. They embrace two very distinct,
indeed counterposed phases. On the one hand, Europe™s last linguis-
tic ancien r´ gime; on the other hand, the roots of the continent™s most
dynamic process of linguistic destabilization, which would lead directly to
the revolution of 1848 and beyond. Yet the former state of affairs has been
grievously neglected; and even the latter process tends only to be studied
in terms of the foundation of literary languages (usually considered sep-
arately from one another), and to some extent as part of the prehistory
of the later ˜nationality question™ in the region. The actual workings of
language interaction in the Hungarian past are hardly ever examined, at
least by historians and those in allied disciplines. Yet those workings also
raise wider questions about the ˜public sphere™, in the sense of access to
group communication. To whom was this available, and on what terms?
And what kinds of justi¬cation “ practical or rhetorical “ underpinned
the claims of one language rather than another?
It is symptomatic that the only eminent treatment of my subject for
eighteenth-century Hungary (or perhaps any other period) “ by Daniel
Rapant “ has been buried, as a victim of the same divergent evolution. A
Slovak, writing in the 1920s about larger issues of Hungarian linguistic
culture, made little impact at home and was routinely dismissed unread
elsewhere, if noticed at all.1 Thus a chief cause of disregard for the issues
raised in what follows is the subsequent politics of language. But part of

1 Daniel Rapant, K poˇiatkom mad™ariz´ cie (2 vols., Bratislava, 1927“31), one of the ¬rst
c a
major scholarly tomes ever produced in Slovak. On Rapant: R. Marsina (ed.), Historik
Daniel Rapant: zivot a dielo, 1897“1988“1997 (Martin, 1998), though even this belated
tribute has little on the language side. Rapant is normally ignored by Hungarian histo-
rians, or else routinely demonized: e.g. recently Ambrus Miskolczy, ˜Egy tort´ n´ szvita
¨ ee
anatomi´ ja. 1790“1830/48: folytonoss´ g vagy megszak´totts´ g?™, Aetas (2005), pp. 160“
´a a ± a
212, at p. 182 (here in relation to a later work of his).

The politics of language in Hungary 201

the reason lies in the dif¬culty of contemporary sources, especially for
the spoken tongue. I can here only hint in a preliminary way at the kind
of materials on offer, and at their limitations, before moving on to some
re¬‚ections about how they might be exploited for wider historical ends.
Of course, a huge volume of documentation serves to demonstrate
what language was used for given published and unpublished records.
But it is harder to re¬ne the topic. The best kinds of evidence are three-
fold. Firstly, certain kinds of of¬cial survey, beginning with ecclesiastical
ones, notably a countrywide record of parishes in 1773 which identi¬ed
the majority language in each case.2 Secondly, from the 1780s Conduite-
listen (or personal dossiers), which frequently included information about
knowledge of languages, were introduced within the central administra-
tion and the army. They constitute a potentially remarkable source, but
need to be consulted with caution, since most rest on self-assessment,
and raise the question what bene¬ts or penalties might attach to claims
or admissions made in them. Finally, we have the more casual observa-
tions of travellers, memoirists and the like, which mounted in volume for
Hungary by the end of the century. These are miscellaneous, impression-
istic, often derivative; but they can sometimes supply key testimony, as I
hope to show, from a surprising source, later in this chapter.
The basic linguistic datum about Hungary was variety. There were
seven main native vernaculars: Magyar3 clearly the most prominent, espe-
cially as the spoken tongue of much of the social establishment, as we shall
see below; but none with an absolute majority of speakers. In the Middle
Ages Magyars, descendants of the tribesmen who invaded the middle
Danube basin around the year 900 and those who had assimilated to
their culture, must have enjoyed a clear predominance. Croats, with their
semi-autonomous lands in the south-west, and the Slav populations to
the north later known as Slovaks and Ruthenes had also been settled
since that early period, along with some Germans near the Austrian bor-
der and probably some Romanians in the east. Over succeeding centuries
many more Germans and Romanians arrived, the latter often driven by
pressure from warfare in the Balkans. Ottoman conquests also displaced
large numbers of Serbs and Croats on to Hungarian territory, and the

Magyarorsz´ g helys´geinek 1773“ban k´sz¨ lt hivatalos ossze´r´ sa = Lexicon locorum regni
2 a e eu ¨ ±a
Hungariae populosorum anno 1773 of¬ciose confectum (Budapest, 1920). The purpose is
described thus: ˜Lexicon universorum regni Hungari¦ locorum populosorum una per-
hibens primo: qv¦nam ex his pagi, qv¦ve oppida sint? secundo: an & cujus religionis
ˆ ˆ
parochos et ludimagistros habeant? tertio: qv¦ principaliter in singulis lingva vigeat?™
3 I shall mostly refer to the language thus in what follows: ˜magyar [nyelv]™ can equally
be rendered as ˜Hungarian [language]™, but in the present context that might create
ambiguity. Use of the two overlapping terms would itself deserve a semantic study.
202 R. J. W Evans

Table 10.1 Hungary: Population (in ™000s)

1842 % 1900 %

(estimated, by language of parishes) (census of mother tongue)

Magyars (Hungarians) 4,800 37 8,700 45
Romanians (˜Wallacks™) 2,200 17 2,800 15
Slovaks (˜totok™)
´ 1,700 13 2,000 10
Germans (˜Saxons™, 1,300 10 2,100 11
˜Swabians™) 

Croats (˜Illyrians™) 1,800 9
together 2,100 17

Serbs (˜Rascians™) 1,100 6
Ukrainians (˜Russians™, 450 4 400 2
Jews 250 2 included in 5

Total 12,800 18,900

extended period from the 1520s to the end of the seventeenth century
when the central part of the country fell under direct Turkish rule further
shifted the ethnic balance.
The statistics in Table 10.1 give an impression of this state of affairs.
However, we need to bear in mind for present purposes that they were
not only collected much later, but suffer from other defects. They may
not themselves be wholly accurate, certainly not before proper decen-
nial censuses were introduced in 1880, and even thenceforth to some
extent. Linguistic competence revealingly formed no part of the terms
of reference for Joseph II™s otherwise quite intrusive statistical investiga-
tions, even as he sought to implement the controversial decree we shall
consider below.4 Hence eighteenth-century contemporaries could only
guess at the facts “ and when they began to do so, in public, some spec-
ulated in markedly prejudiced ways. Besides, many people at the time
had little or no sense of ethnic identity anyway, so such aggregations are
largely at best meaningless and at worst mischievous.
Still more distinctive, however, was the survival in Hungary of Latin,
as both a written and “ in signi¬cant degree “ a spoken lingua franca.
Elsewhere in Europe its role, though very considerable in and beyond
the age of humanism, fell away sharply by the period which concerns us

4 Guszt´ v Thirring, Magyarorsz´ g n´pess´ge II. J´ zsef kor´ ban (Budapest, 1938), pp. 3“12,
a ae e o a
outlines the (largely military) purposes of Joseph™s 1784 census.
The politics of language in Hungary 203

here, and it retained a place largely in some intellectual and ecclesiastical
circles, especially Roman Catholic ones.5 Only there was it still called
upon to perform certain limited of¬cial functions. That applied even to
Hungary™s neighbours, where Czech in Bohemia had been the ¬rst tongue
to supplant Latin in most spheres of public life, followed by German in
the empire, including the Habsburgs™ Austrian lands, and Polish in the
western half of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.6 Farther east, in
Lithuania proper, old Ruthenian long survived as Europe™s only other
such language of formal record. But Ruthenian too was ¬nally replaced
by Polish in 1697, and even before then it had been on its last legs;
moreover, although antiquated, it did not stand all that far from the local
White Russian and Ukrainian vernaculars, which weakens the parallel
with Latin.7

Latin long maintained a stable linguistic ascendancy in Hungary, and
it continued to hold this ground until the late eighteenth century.8 Vir-
tually all of¬cial business was recorded in Latin “ and much was actu-
ally conducted in it. That included, most conspicuously, proceedings at
both houses of the diet, but especially the upper house, from the ses-
sions that re-established the balance between Estates and Habsburg ruler
under King Charles III (VI as emperor), through the famous ˜vitam
et sanguinem™ pledge to Maria Theresa in 1741 and the contrasting
impasses later in her reign, to the dramatic confrontations of 1790“1.
Istv´ n Szij´ rto™s new account of eighteenth-century Hungarian parlia-
a a´
mentary life, by dint of unprecedentedly thorough dissection of such
things as session diaries, seems to con¬rm the probable hegemony of
spoken Latin, above all in the upper house and much plenary business
of the lower house, where interventions in Magyar are sometimes com-
mented on, presumably for being unusual. Certain ceremonial addresses
were regularly delivered in one or other of the two tongues, af¬rming
perhaps a kind of ritual balance, but with Latin as the dominant part-
ner.9 The same applied in the counties, where the debates of their noble

5 Peter Burke, in Language, Self and Society, ed. Burke and R. Porter (Cambridge, 1991),
pp. 23“50; Burke, Languages and Communities in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2004),
pp. 43“60.
6 Cf. R. J. W. Evans, ˜Language and Politics: Bohemia in International Context, 1409“
1627™, in Confession and Nation in the Era of Reformations: Central Europe in Comparative
Perspective, ed. J. P´ nek, forthcoming.
7 Antoine Martel, La langue polonaise dans les pays ruth`nes: Ukraine et Russie Blanche, 1569“
1667 (Lille, 1938).
8 Rapant, K poˇiatkom mad™ariz´ cie, I.3“91.
c a
9 Istv´ n Szij´ rto, A di´ta. A magyar rendek es az orsz´ ggy˝ l´s, 1708“92 (Budapest, 2005),
a a´ e ´ a ue
pp. 132“5, 180f.
204 R. J. W Evans

congregations were carried on in Latin, at least in areas of mixed ethnicity,
and their minutes everywhere recorded in that language.
The same also held for almost the whole of the country™s central
administration, up to the Lieutenancy Council and Chancellery in Press-
burg/Pozsony and Vienna respectively, and down to county level and
below “ at least in so far as it was Hungary™s own system. Some Austrian
inroads had been made in ¬nancial and especially military management,
as we shall see. But they counted for little beside the squarely Latinate
character of the entire legal system above the manorial courts (except
of course for some direct witness testimony), and of all education above
the age of eleven or so years. That was true for literary culture too, with
a majority of all books still published in that language until the mid-
eighteenth century, and of learned ones even beyond.10
Contemporary apologists for this situation may have gilded the lily at
times.11 But the strength of Latin was not seriously in question, and it
even appears to have gained or regained ground over most of the cen-
tury. Latin advanced through a variety of factors: the extra volume of
administration; the end of an independent Magyar-dominated Transyl-
vanian state, which meant that the grand-duchy now used less Hun-
garian in its proceedings; the successes of Roman Catholicism and the
limitations placed on Protestants and Orthodox. Most of all Latin ben-
e¬ted from the ever-greater diversity of population, and to some extent
of diet deputies, in the expanded and still expanding eighteenth-century
Given that no one came to Latin as a native tongue, how polyglot were
Hungary™s inhabitants? The educated often acquired three or four lan-
guages, with other vernaculars mainly learned outside school. We have
plenty of evidence of nobles who spoke Magyar, Latin and some further
tongue, as of clerics at least as well equipped. Particular examples may be

10 Domokos Kos´ ry, M˝ vel˝ d´s a XVIII. sz´ zadi Magyarorsz´ gon (Budapest, 1980),
a u oe a a
pp. 129ff., 529ff.; K´ lm´ n Benda, Emberbar´ t vagy haza¬? Tanulm´ nyok a felvil´ gosod´ s
aa a a a a
kor´ nak magyarorsz´ gi t¨ rt´net´b˝ l (Budapest, 1978), pp. 299ff. A case-study in Ilona
a a o e eo
Pavercsik, A kassai k¨ nyvek utja a nyomd´ t´ l az olvas´ ig (Budapest, 1992). Eva Knapp
o ´ ao o
and G´ bor Tusk´ s, in Companion to the History of the Neo-Latin Studies in Hungary, ed. I.
a ¨e
Bartok (Budapest, 2005), pp. 37“54, survey part of this output; I am grateful to Derek
Beales for this last reference.
11 Cf. below, n. 38. The Ratio educationis (see below) asserted that ˜the diet and govern-
ment departments, county congregations and courts, transact all business in Latin™:
I. M´ sz´ ros (ed. and trans.), Ratio educationis: Az 1777“i es az 1806“i kiad´ s magyar
ea ´ a
nyelv˝ ford´t´ sa (Budapest, 1981), p. 75. It depended on what was meant by ˜transact all
u ±a
12 It seems likely that the diet in its ¬rst, late medieval, phase had witnessed substantial
debate in Magyar, but I know of no adequate treatment of this issue, or of language
policy in Transylvania during and after the rule of its native princes.
The politics of language in Hungary 205

cited: 50 per cent of priests in the new bishopric of Beszterceb´ nya/Bansk´
a a
Bystrica and of municipal of¬cials in Pressburg were quadrilingual in the
years around 1780.13 Individuals could be credited with several more:
thus S´ ndor P´ szthory, a top chancellery secretary, knew Latin, Mag-
a a
yar, German, French, Italian and English; Wolfgang Kempelen, another
top counsellor and famous too as an inventor, apparently knew Latin,
Magyar, German, Italian, French, English and Dutch.14 Conduitelisten
for high of¬cials in Transylvania record that, of a total of 64 in 1789,
all claimed Latin, 96% Magyar, 90% German, 83% Romanian, 27%
(mainly senior ones) French and 8% Italian. Ten years later, out of a
larger group of 109, competence in Latin remained at 100%, with 93%
knowing Magyar, 91% German, 88% Romanian, 17% French and 12%
Italian.15 The surviving correspondence of a second-generation magnate,
Count J´ nos Fekete, has been analysed for the period 1767“1803: 35%
of it is in German, 23% Magyar, 20% French, 13% Italian, 10% Latin.16
Things are harder to measure lower down the social scale. The late
Istv´ n Toth brilliantly exposed many lesser nobles™ clumsy mistakes in
a ´
basic written Latin. But he also uncovered a considerable mastery of
spoken Latin by those who needed it for everyday situations in places
where several vernaculars were in use.17 British travellers to Hungary
were perhaps especially inclined to be impressed by facility in Latin as they
encountered it in various parts of the country: men like Robert Townson,
who was acutely sensitized to the issue when he found himself arrested
in 1792 as a Jacobin spy because he spoke French.18 It is a common
observation that innkeepers speak Magyar and German and often some

13 Rapant, K poˇiatkom mad™ariz´ cie, I.57f.; cf. Gr´ f Hofmannsegg utaz´ sa Magyarorsz´ gon
c a o a a
1793“4-ben, ed. I. Berkeszi (Budapest, 1887), pp. 25, 28“9, 55.
14 Lajos Hajdu, A k¨ zj´ szolg´ lat´ ban. A j´ ze¬nizmus igazgat´ si es jogi reformjair´ l (Budapest,
oo aa o a´ o


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