A Literary Futurist, an Incurable Iconoclast, is Maximilian Harden
FREDERIC W. WILEApril11914
The Stormy Petrel of the German Press
A Literary Futurist, an Incurable Iconoclast, is Maximilian Harden
FREDERIC W. WILE
EMPEROR reign has been WILLIAM’S singularly devoid of scandal. The private lives of himself and his large family are an unblemished record of exemplary living. The tongue of gossip has never busied itself with the Kaiser in an unworthy connection. In one momentous instance h e proved unfortunate in the choice of his friends. That is as near as William II.’s name has ever come to being dragged in the mire. It emerged from the unlovely affair untarnished.
To discuss Maximilian Harden ’s crusade against Prince Eulenburg is a thankless task in the review of the men who have made the Kaiser’s reign notable, but the view would be incomplete without it. The upheaval caused by Harden’s revelation was the most striking victory wrought in the name of public opinion which modern Germany has yet witnessed. Journalism, which has still to conquer in the Fatherland a position commensurate with the one it has long commanded abroad, was a power when the Moltke-Harden-Eulenburg trials were ended. How much of a power was not recognized at the time, nor is fully realized even now, though the “November crisis” a year later was designed to bring it vividly home to the most reluctant circles of German society.
Vilified and ostracized by superpatriots as an outcast, traitor and slanderer, stoned by a large section of his own colleagues in sheer envy or myopic conception of his epoch-making achievement, Maximilian Harden is today indisputably the commanding figure in the field of German polemics. No man now writing in the language of Goethe and Schiller has so large a personal following, or so influential a voice. An incurable iconoclast, affecter of stylistic flourishes far above the head of the average reader, a literary futurist who revels in the staccato and the cryptic, the editor of the Zukunft whether writing or talking—he does both equally well—is assured attentive hearing from countless and sympathetic ears. He has the fascination of Horace Walpole and
the sledge-hammer incisiveness of Cobden. He believes heads were made to be hit. If they bear a crown, or wobble on the shoulders of pedantic Chancellors, he hits them all the harder. He is a fierce patriot but not a jingo. No publicist, past or present, ever dipped his pen into the vitriol more fearlessly Shining marks are the targets at which he tilts most gleefully. He has served two terms of imprisonment for what he describes as “alleged lese-majeste,” and spent the periods of his incarceration at Fortress Weichselmunde—six months each—sharpening his lance for fresh jousts.
For the purposes of this sketch I asked Harden to supply his own version of the episode with which history will chiefly identify him. He summarizes it with characteristic lucidity. “In the affair of Eulenburg and Company,” he says, “the gentlemen whom I had fought openly, and from pure-
ly political motives, tried to hold me to the indefinite and casual intimations I had made, and which were then intelligible only to themselves. They thought my insinuations incapable of substantiation before a court of law. This finally compelled me, after sparing them more than enough, to come forward with the proofs. I did it reluctantly, having warned them often. The rest you know.”
It was a distressing concatenation of events which were to ensue; the incriminating articles in the Zukunft, hinted vaguely at unspeakable conditions in the entourage of the Kaiser; the boldness of the Crown Prince in bringing them to his father’s attention; the summa r y disappearance o f Prince Philip zu Eulenburg —poet, musician, diplomat and wire-puller — from the circle of the Emperor’s intimates; the enforced resignation of General Count Kuno von Moltke, commandant of Berlin, and Count Wilhelm von Hobenau, cousin and aide-de-camp of his Majesty; Moltke’s private action against Harden for libel, with its painful disclosure of moral laxity in the aristocracy and the army; Harden’s acquittal; the succeeding action against him, this time a Crown prosecution, with Harden in the dock,, which was to “vindicate” Moltke and ended in a gaol sentence for the editor, which he has never served; Harden’s merciless revenge in the form of proceedings for perjury against Eulenburg, already a social vagrant and physical wreck; the broken favorite’s tragic appearances as a prisoner on a stretcher, who is still under indictment and surveillance as an invalid awaiting trial. Such was the apparent endless reign of terror in which Harden’s campaign against the Inner Round Table of the Supreme War Lord engulfed the country. Germans eradicated its nauseous memories from their nostrils as speedily as possible. Moltke and Hohenau vanished as if obliterated. Where they are even at this hour nobody knows or cares. Eulenburg, ruined and disgraced, was permitted to retire to his feudal castle
at Liebenberg, formerly the scene of annual sojourns by the Kaiser. Count Johannes Lynar, another of the clique, was cashiered from the army and sent to gaol for a year and a half. France removed from her embassy in Berlin a Charge d’affaires, who had been Eulenburg’s friend. The camarilla, which had for a generation been one of the dominating forces in political and court life, which had helped to overthrow Bismarck, and was plotting for the downfall of Prince Bulow, was annihilated beyond resurrection. Germany had been made to blush before the world, but Harden’s work was done.
Harden had opportunity to ring all the changes of his versatile personality during his first trial. An actor for a brief period in his callow days, he played the part again in those fateful days at Old Moabit in the autumn of 1907. Trim, unafraid, alert and relentless, he practically conducted his own defence. German legal practice permits a litigant wide declamatory latitude. Harden smiles and bows to acquaintances, betokening confidence and eagerness for the fray. Before the trial is an hour old he has manoeuvred its course so that the pale Count von Moltke seems the real defendant, cowering under the lash of some merciless public prosecutor. Harden enters his plea of justification. He staggers the court with a forecast of the damning evidence in his ammunition-chest. The judge intervenes, as is his duty under the Prussian code, to propose a compromise. “In the interests of our whole country,” he beseeches the editor to consent to a settlement out of court. Tense, defiant, Harden rises. In accents ot splendid disdain he snarls he would rather go to prison than recede or compound. “Between me and that man,” he thunders, leveling an accusing finger at Moltke, “there is no possibility of compromise on this earth!” The trial must proceed.
Four days it continues, a forensic struggle of surpassing bitterness, with no quarter the slogan of both prosecution and defence. No court scene ever staged by Booth or Irving rivals it in dramatic grimness. Moltke’s attempts at rehabilitation crumble pitiably. Theatrical to the tips of his fingers, Harden, who has thrown court and nation into hourly consternation with revelations of state secrets come straight to him “from above,” plays his trump card last—the Kaiser’s own indictment of the three figures whose names have been bandied all the week. “Away with Eulenburg, away with Hohenau for ever! There is nothing definite against Moltke, but he must remain on half-pay. Let him prove his integrity! Purified or atoned!” An impassioned plea of selfdefence by the defendant, and the curtain falls on the first act of the most harrowing tragedy New Germany has yet faced. Then, two days later, proclamation of Harden’s acquittal, and a welcome by the populace such as a conqueror might envy.
Harden, who was born and educated in Berlin, is approaching his fifty-second birthday. Thirst for freedom and family bickerings drove him from home when a mere lad, to pursue for a spell the career of an itinerant actor. Though he decided that histrionics were not his forte, his early courting of the Muse saturated his whole being, for his bearing and tactics always smack of the footlights. After a more or less breadless season as literary and dramatic critic, he wrote his first book, a series of political satires, under his first pseudonym of “Apostata.” In October, 1892, he issued the first number of Zukunft.
Harden’s talents as a pungent commentator on current events attracted the attention of Bismarck about the year after the Iron Chancellor’s dismissal. The dropped pilot invited the young editor to visit him, and until Bismarck’s death he was a frequent and welcome guest at Friedrichsruh. No living man knows as much of Bismarck’s unpublished history as Harden. Diagnosticians of the pathology of his uncompromising warfare on most of the events and institutions of the present reign ascribe it to Harden’s veneration for Bismarck and a vow to avenge the ignominious manner of the empiremaker’s retirement.
Zukunft, the little weekly in .which Harden pours out his heart, has come to be the megaphone through which discontented Germany roars. People look upon it as an unterrified tribune which will expose shams and air grievances plausibly and forcibly. Information drifts to Harden in the most miraculous fashion, from the lowest and highest in the land. Cabinet Ministers, men of affairs and plain sons of the people come to him with their woes and wrongs, often with their intrigues, confident that his trenchant pen is the surest means of ventilating the one and righting the other. Zukunft has an immense circulation, and produces Harden a handsome income. He is in as great demand as a public speaker as his writings. During the winter he lectures occasionally in Berlin and outside, and sometimes responds to calls from abroad. His theme is always political. A natural orator, his style suffers only from staginess. He is fond of breaking off in the middle of a sentence, to accentuate the effect of a statement or idea. His lecture public is so large that a mere announcement of his appearance means a sold-out house within twenty-four hours. He minces words on his feet even less than at his writing desk.
Harden closely resembles Josef Kainz, the late Viennese tragedian, in looks, mannerisms and stature. Slight, though muscular of build, ascetic and stern, his external appearance is not found prepossessing by people who meet him for the first time. Their initial impression is that of a crabbed figure with an oblong head, crowned by a wealth of curly dark hair fringing an intensely intellectual face. Out of it flash two deeply
penetrating eyes. But Harden captivates on five minutes’ acquaintance. He proves to possess a winning smile, a wonderfully receptive mind, a temperament which is both modest and fiery, and an arsenal of information about the great events, the big men and the undercurrents of German life. You come away from his picturesque villa in the sylvan Grünewald, understanding why his enemies fear him, and no longer wondering how he counts powerful friends by the score. You hear him called a common scold in Berlin, but Germany would be the poorer without
How Prince Arthur Declined the Duchy of Coburg
'TpHE recent marriage of Prince Arthur of Connaught, and his present nearness to the people of Canada, through his distinguished father, the present Governor-General of Canada, make it appropriate to record a delightful “impression,” in the ipissimi verba of a youthful Etonian of the time, of how H.R.H. kicked away the prospective crown of Coburg, and, like the Jack Tar of H.M.S. Pinafore, elected to “remain an Englishman.”
The Prince and his cousin, the young Duke of Albany, were, it will be remembered, both at Eton at the date of the death of the late Prince Alfred of Saxe-Coburg, heir-apparent to the German Duchy.
“Well,” said the Eton boy of the period, “what happened was simply this. Connaught met Albany (who was a jolly decent chap, a bit younger than Connaught) one day after twelve, and said: ‘I say, you’ve heard, I suppose, that they want me to go off to Germany and be Duke of Coburg?’
“ ‘Yes,’ said Albany.
“ ‘Well, I am going into the British Army, and I am not going to turn German. You can go and be Duke of Coburg, it will just suit you.’
“ ‘But,’ said Albany, ‘I don’t want to go to Germany either, and I don’t want to leave Eton.’
“ ‘Look here, young chap,’ said Connaught, ‘you’ve got to be Duke of Coburg, and it’s no use talking rot. Next Sunday you’re going up to Windsor to lunch with Grand-mamma, and mind you tell her it’s all right and you agree. If you don’t, look out for squalls, and take care I don’t kick you jolly well all round the school yard. ’
“So of course Albany had to give in after that, because he was supposed to be rather a delicate sort of chap, and Connaught could easily have kicked him if he wanted to.”
This story is perfectly genuine, though whether it describes what actually happened is open to doubt. It will hardly pass into history.
The above is the first of a series of comic business cartoons which Dudley Ward has prepared for MacLearis Magazine. There is humor galore in all of Mr. Ward’s characterizations, and he is at his best in this series. To apply phases of present-day business life to conditions existing in the Stone Age gives ample scope for the exercise of a whimsical imagination and a facile pen; and Mr. Ward, in his inimitable drawings, gets the most out of his subjects. The next sketch will be (Joy Riding in the Stone Age.”
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