Grand Duchess Sophie of Saxony

Rudolf Steiner, Magazine for Literature, 66th year, No. 14, April 8, 1897
Google translate: German to English

GRAND DUCHESS SOPHIE OF SAXONY

In the history of German literary research, the Grand Duchess Sophie of Saxony, who died on March 23, 1897, deserves a place of honor. Goethe's last grandson appointed her the heir to the entire manuscript estate of his grandfather. He could not have entrusted the precious treasures to any better care than theirs. In April 1888, the papers of Goethe passed into their possession. From that point on she considered the administration of the legacy a sacred and loving duty. She wanted to make it as fruitful as possible for science. She carefully discussed with men who were considered to be good Goethe connoisseurs, with Herman Grimm, Wilhelm Scherer, Gustav von Loeper and Erich Schmidt, how the good entrusted to her should be put to literary-historical research. She founded the "Goethe Archive" and hired Erich Schmidt as its director.

By publishing a Goethe edition corresponding to all the scientific requirements of the time, she believed she could best serve the knowledge of Goethe and his time. A large number of scholars were invited to participate in this issue. It was her heart's desire to experience the completion of the monumental work. Unfortunately, it has not come true. Only half of the envisaged number of volumes is still available today. The Grand Duchess took the most active part in the work of her archive. The current director of this institution, Bernhard Suphan, could only speak in terms of the highest enthusiasm when he spoke of this sympathy. She went into all the details of the work.

Goethe's estate was a magnet for the papers left behind by other German poets and writers. The descendants of Schiller in May 1889 made the manuscripts of their ancestor as a gift to the Grand Duchess. As a result, the "Goethe Archive" expanded into the "Goethe and Schiller Archive".

The plan was to gradually design this for the German literary archive. Much has already happened to the realization of this plan. The estates of Otto Ludwigs, Friedrich Hebbel, Eduard Mörikes u. a. are already in the Goethe and Schiller archives. In order to complete her creation, the Grand Duchess made the decision to construct her own building to house the treasures. On June 28, 1896, the magnificent building on the Um, near the Residenzschloss, was ready to be turned over to its purpose. Anyone who attended the opening ceremony of this literary archive was able to observe with what seriousness and with what love the Grand Duchess spoke of her creation. One saw how happy she felt to be able to serve science.

A clear view, a sure feeling for the great and the important were inherent to Grand Duchess Sophie. She had a keen judgment that made her do the right thing on the toughest questions. An indomitable energy and a rare prudence enabled her to devote her care to even the smallest trifles that were connected with their work. What she has done for the care of art, for the education of the youth in Weimar, for the material welfare of their country, can not be overlooked today. Setting beautiful tasks and performing them with strong will was in her nature. Great is the veneration that she enjoys in Weimar.

It is highly appreciated by the members of the Goethe Society, the Shakespeare Society, the Schiller Foundation, who were able to see at their meetings in Weimar, how great was the interest that brought this woman spiritual aspirations, and how great the understanding she had for cultural tasks. Her wish was that everyone in Weimar should spend beautiful days when they visit this place, in order to revive the memory of great times of the past. It has been said many times in recent times that one lives in Weimar from the past. That's right. The best way to understand this life is in great memories. And that there is such a place where people from time to time gather, who otherwise live only in the present, is hardly to be regretted. It's nice to see the past alive from time to time, as if in a dream. The fact that Weimar is today such a place that many people like to visit again and again, and that they take home good impressions of their visits, the recently deceased Grand Duchess has much, much contributed.

© Tom Last 2017