- Edgar Allan Poe und König Ludwig II: Anatomie einer Geistesfreundschaft (Edgar Allan Poe and King Ludwig II: Anatomy of a Spiritual Friendship) by Alfons Schweiggert
In 1882 the American journalist and writer Lew Vanderpoole (1855–?) requested an audience with King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845–86), because he needed the king’s help for the settlement of a complicated heritage. The interview was businesslike, until King Ludwig noticed an article about Edgar Allan Poe among the many papers on the table, an article that Vanderpoole was writing for a French magazine. The king suddenly became excited, and with shining eyes he turned to Vanderpoole and said:
Is it a personal account of him? Did you know Poe? Of course you did not, you are too young. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am. Just for a moment I thought that I was in the presence of someone who had actually known that most wonderful of all writers! To me Poe was the greatest man ever born—greatest in every particular. But like so many rare gems, he was fated to have his brilliancy tarnished and marred by constant clashings and chafings against common stone. How he must have suffered under the coarse, mean indignities which the world heaped on him! And what harsh, heartless things were said of him when death had dulled the sharpness of his trenchant pen! You will better understand my enthousiasm when I tell you that I would sacrifice my right to my royal crown to have him on earth for a single hour, if in that hour he would unbosom to me those rare and excuisite thoughts and feelings which so manifestly were the major part of his life.
This emotional outburst from King Ludwig II was the beginning of a two-hour conversation with Vanderpoole, in which the king not only expressed his boundless admiration for Poe and his work but also explained the similarities between Poe’s personality and his own. And these similarities are indeed many and remarkable.
King Ludwig II was probably one of the first admirers of Poe in Germany. The king, who was fluent in French, knew Poe’s work from the French translations by Baudelaire, because no German translations of Poe’s work were published [End Page 114] before 1904. Baudelaire and Mallarmé translated Poe’s work into French, which was also the common language of the entire European élite at that time. This fact was instrumental for Poe’s amazing conquest of the European continent during the second half of the nineteenth century, as is once more shown in the case of King Ludwig II.
King Ludwig II is still a controversial figure, although in Bavaria he is now usually regarded with sympathy. Internationally he is best known for the extravagant and fairylike castles and palaces he built, of which the castle Neuschwanstein is the most famous. This castle is considered by many as the most beautiful in the world, not only from an architectural point of view but also for its amazingly decorated interior. It is now a major tourist attraction and an inspiration for artists, architects, writers, movie directors, and Disney World. But two other castles created by Ludwig II, Herrenchiemsee and Linderhof, are also famous for their beauty and artistic extravagance in the exteriors and interiors. During his life King Ludwig II almost ruined his country with his creative obsession for architecture and castles, but today these magnificent buildings are important sources of revenue for the state of Bavaria.
The Munich author Alfons Schweiggert had already written several books about the legendary King Ludwig II, but when he read the story about the encounter of King Ludwig II and the American journalist Lew Vanderpoole he decided to take up the study of Poe—not with the special intention to know more about Poe but to get an even better understanding of King Ludwig II, the man who felt such...