Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Staging the New Reichshaupstadt:Modern Encounters in Hermann Sudermann's Die Ehre

This article examines Sudermann's sensationally successful first drama Die Ehre (Honor, 1889) by contextualizing the contemporary social issues treated in the work. A closer look at the drama reveals discontents among the mechanisms of social order in late nineteenth-century Germany. Old class taboos were disintegrating, Germany's fortunes were advancing, and Berlin was being transformed into a world city. The germaneness of the themes presented in Die Ehre are precisely why the drama caused a sensation in 1889, and why it remains a rich documentation of turn-of-the-century Berlin.

On the morning of November 28, 1889, a new literary genius was proclaimed in Berlin. Hermann Sudermann's first drama had premiered the night before at the Lessing Theater in the young capital city with much acclaim, proving that a new literary direction in Germany had arrived. The Berliner Tageblatt trumpeted, "Since yesterday evening the German Volk once more possesses a true and great dramatic poet, who may boldly place his name among the foremost of his contemporaries."1 The small weekly liberal newspaper that had some years before helped the struggling artist by publishing his stories wished him the best of luck in greener pastures: "For years one of our most loyal contributors achieved a major success yesterday, on Wednesday, in Berlin's Lessing Theater with his four-act play 'Ehre.' Hopefully the German stage 'has now acquired an ingenious, creative dramatist.' We herewith send him our best wishes."2 These adulating words of great expectations are indicative of the sensation that Die Ehre (Honor) set off in the German-speaking world. Just one month before this on October 20, 1889, another unknown, Gerhart Hauptmann, [End Page 1] had also caused a stir with the premiere of his naturalist drama Vor Sonnenaufgang (Before Dawn) at the Lessing Theater. Thus, the year 1889 would pass into German literary history as the year in which naturalism had taken the German stage by storm. If Hauptmann spearheaded the movement, it was Sudermann who augmented its popularity. According to one contemporary critic, "For Hauptmann it was first the suffering path of a struggling poet; Sudermann instantly tread upon the assured path of success as a favorite of the bourgeois crowd."3

Die Ehre begins with the homecoming of Robert Heinecke, the son of the Hinterhaus (rear house) who is back from a ten-year stretch of working in India on behalf of Mühlingk, patriarch of the Vorderhaus (front house), overseeing his coffee plantation operated by an indolent nephew. The fates of both houses had become interwoven seventeen years earlier when the elder Heinecke suffered a serious accident in Mühlingk's factory. Taking pity on the proletarian family, the newly titled Kommerzienrat (councilor of commerce) provided lodging for them in the rear part of his home and ensured Robert's education and later employment in his business. The elation of Robert's return all but fades as he realizes the exploitative dynamic that has developed between the Vorder and Hinterhaus, namely that the honor of his family has been compromised by Mühlingk's son Kurt, who has seduced their daughter Alma. Even worse for him is that his family was complicit in this dishonorable affair by accepting a payout from the Kommerzienrat. As tensions peak, a duel between Robert and Kurt is only narrowly avoided thanks to the reasoning of Robert's friend Count von Trast-Saarberg, as well as the protests of Mühlingk's emancipated daughter Lenore.

What was it about Die Ehre that caused such a stir in 1889 only to be all but forgotten a half century later? One critic wrote decades later that it encapsulated a "social moment," as the German Großbürgertum or upper class encountered the proletariat represented in the metonymic constellation of the Vorder and Hinterhaus.4 Certainly, this and other salient social themes touched upon in the drama were not sui generis to this work in 1889.

Of all works by Hermann Sudermann, Die Ehre is perhaps the only one that still occasionally finds mention in literary histories, albeit typically to exemplify the false promise of literary naturalism at the turn of the century. Nevertheless, there have been several articles produced about the drama in recent decades that elucidate some themes in Die Ehre, as well as explore the dramatic contours of the play. Bernd Witte, for example, in comparing the final and original draft versions of Die Ehre, finds that its contemporary success can be understood in its use of irony to expose certain tendencies of the time. This is evident in its resistance to fulfill the audience's expectations of tragedy in the last act, which gave expression to a hope for new social and aesthetic directions circa 1889.5 Also focusing on the jarringly felicitous conclusion of the drama, Raleigh Whitinger argues that the artificial ending, although heavily criticized as a mere kitsch device, provides for "ironically [End Page 2] self-conscious commentary" on more traditional dramatic modes of theater.6 The play, then, is more about criticizing traditional literature's solutions for social ills, as finding a solution to them. Most recently, Ingo Stöckmann has aptly made the case regarding the timeliness of the drama.7

There is no doubt that Die Ehre arrived at a turning point in German literature as modernist self-awareness was becoming readily apparent, even if there was no universal definition of this category other than its fixation on "the new."8 This essay contends that the significance of Sudermann's drama is its rendering of a growing public consciousness of social change into a popular culture sensation. A closer look at Die Ehre shows that it touches on a number of social questions that were lingering at the outset of the Wilhelmine period. Not only was the taboo of intermingling among classes eroding, but also old constants such as the inviolable notion of honor were eroding as industrial capitalism expanded and Berlin transformed into a world city. It is the self-evident presentation of these themes in 1889 that accounts for the sensational success of Die Ehre, and its reception is therefore telling in terms of the public consciousness of these social shifts as the century was drawing to a close.

Apotheosis of a Literary Star

By any standard, the success of Die Ehre was remarkable. The theater critic for the Berliner Tageblatt speculates that it could have been the greatest success that a new German dramatist had ever seen with a first premiere, "At its first performance 'Die Ehre' carried off a rousing, from act to act heightening victory; a victory, from what I can remember, no other dramatic first work was capable of accomplishing on the Berlin stage so undividedly and uncontested."9 The scandal that Hauptmann unleashed was soon eclipsed by Sudermann, paving the way for decades of rivalry between the two dramatists and their respective camps. The media-hyped feud provided fodder for gossip stories well into the next century, such as one that reports the two men as having oppositional "literary personalities."10 Although Sudermann would outpace Hauptmann in terms of performances up until World War I, Hauptmann steadily edged his rival out in terms of favorability among Germany's literature critics and therefore received more serious treatment as an artist. Even though Sudermann's box office success remained intact, an ill-conceived attack on Berlin's theater criticism establishment in 1902—with a series of newspaper articles later published as a pamphlet—ensured the dramatist would be the target of its scorn. The more success Sudermann enjoyed in terms of performance and sales, the harder critics denounced him as a Modedichter, who trivially encapsulated contemporary trends in his works.

Despite Sudermann's fall from grace as Germany's next dramatic genius, it seems that Die Ehre maintained its position as an important milestone of German drama for decades after its premiere. The historical origin of this drama remained a legend for those of the Berlin theater world who could still recall the unlikely success of this [End Page 3] play. In honor of Sudermann's seventieth birthday, the liberal Berlin press printed a number of articles dedicated to the author. Among them was one from the Berlin critic and close friend of Sudermann, Otto Neumann-Hofer, who explains the genesis of Die Ehre as the kind of rags-to-riches story that is so essential to the bourgeois worldview. He recounts a struggling artist who was reluctant to accept an offer from the director of the newly opened Lessing Theater, Oskar Blumenthal, to write a drama that corresponded to the present. Blumenthal, however, convinced a number of his wealthy friends to form a consortium that took upon itself the monetary risk to finance the impecunious Sudermann while completing the drama. Neumann-Hofer explains the terms of this curious arrangement, "This cultural patronage in the form of a corporation had brought together a sum of 8,000 marks that would, according to 'company statutes,' be expensed as a loss in the case of a failure, while a success would yield the signers of the 'guarantee fund' half of the performance royalties in addition to the interest on their capital."11 Sudermann agreed to the terms and the rest of the story is history. It is hard to imagine a narrative that more embodies the bourgeois spirit at the end of the nineteenth century. While the unknown author becomes famous overnight, his patrons were able to make a substantial return on their investment, all the while ostensibly boosting cultural life in the new Reichshauptstadt.

Years later, critics and writers alike could still recount the first impressions of Sudermann's drama. The long-time literary critic for the Berliner Tageblatt, Fritz Engel, vividly recalls in third person attending an early performance of Die Ehre:

A memory almost forty years back. Two young students saw "Die Ehre." … The students were familiar with this Hinterhaus; they even rented rooms from such Heineckes: twenty marks with "coffee." And Alma—Alma was either their Grete or Trude, and "you went out with them." They were somewhat beautified in the figure of Alma, but it worked well, and their urge to converse with "better men" was also present.12

Engel's memory of attending Die Ehre at its inception exemplifies how the drama captured the Zeitgeist by depicting the here and now of Berlin in 1889 rather than a past or future.

Juxtaposing the Vorderhaus and Hinterhaus

If Die Ehre still finds mention today, it is usually for its Vorderhaus and Hinterhaus dynamic. In 1889, the theme of comingling between upper and lower classes was by no means original in literature. A contrast of rich and poor had already been introduced in the first half of the nineteenth century in Johann Nestroy's 1835 drama Zu ebener Erde und erster Stock (On the ground floor and first floor). More recently some of Sudermann's immediate realist predecessors, such as Adolf L'Arronge in Mein [End Page 4] Leopold (1873) and Paul Lindau with his Gräfin Lea (1880), had introduced narratives concerning the consequences of erotic encounters across class boundaries. Still, the stir caused by Sudermann's play vastly eclipsed anything before. One reviewer, reminiscing long after the debut of the drama, locates its significance in its juxtaposing technique: "In the 'Ehre' the contrast between the arrogant propertied bourgeoisie and the pettiest bourgeoisie, nearly proletarian Hinterhaus already functioned as a socially critical thrust. The general interest belonged to the Hinterhaus in the days when social democracy was rising."13 Through Sudermann's drama the Vorderhaus-Hinterhaus motif became a popular theme evinced by the publication of numerous works bearing similar titles.14 Even a more concentrated influence, however, can be noticed in early cinema. The Asta Nielsen film Vordertreppe-Hintertreppe (1915; Front stairs-back stairs), utilizes such a juxtaposing of social classes, not to mention Richard Oswald's 1925 film starring Hans Albers Vorderhaus und Hinterhaus (Front house and rear house). Just as with Sudermann, these films use the motif of a scandalous love affair across class boundaries.15

What was often called the "social question" in the mid-nineteenth century had become by 1889 a myriad of social questions that were yet to be answered. A growing chorus of critics advocated a new kind of literary realism that gradually grew into the discourse of naturalism. The aesthetic break from bourgeois realism gave expression to its spirit of opposition to the status quo. The premieres of Hauptmann's Vor Sonnenaufgang and Sudermann's Die Ehre in 1889 can be understood as the breakthrough of a decade of programming and posturing. For the most part, this was much to the chagrin of those critics such as Karl Bleibtreu, who remained unsatisfied by the fulfillment of his call for a revolutionary literature through so-called Hauptund Sudermännerei.16

Like all of Hermann Sudermann's plays, Die Ehre relies on a heavy amount of prescribed stage detail. Already in the first scene of the drama, the milieu is established as well as the foundational motif of contrast. The stage directions specify contradictions in the Heinecke's Hinterhaus, "kleinbürgerliche, stark verschliffene Ausstattung."17 The juxtaposition of upper-class items of value in a petty-bourgeois setting shows the porous nature of class categories in late nineteenth-century Germany. It also foreshadows the traffic between the Hinterhaus and Vorderhaus. Sudermann's ability to emulate the proletarian vernacular of Berlin adds a degree of authenticity, when Frau Heinecke, for example, suggests the universality of motherly love over material conditions upon Robert's return: "Was ein Mutterherz is, kennt keenen Rang und keenen Stand" (9).

Despite Hermann Sudermann's dedication to creating a convincing depiction of the lower classes, it can scarcely be regarded as exaltation. The state in which the Heineckes exist does not immediately identify them as poor. Instead, the lower class proves to be no less flawed than its bourgeois antitheses. Ludwig Stein, philosopher [End Page 5] and friend of Sudermann, writes in his autobiography that it was a lecture on Karl Marx's Das Kapital that had inspired the class conflict in Die Ehre, but the social conditions depicted in the play fail to provoke a sense of outrage.18 Just as Hauptmann displays the degenerative qualities of the family Krause in Vor Sonnenaufgang, Sudermann chooses to present the family Heinecke in a similar tone. The milieu in which they exist plays a determining role in their worldview and actions. Robert clings to traditional values of honor and morality, but his family has abandoned such ideals in favor of comfort and leisure. This is evident in the awkward placement of luxury items in the lower-class abode, which the stage directions in the first act describe: "Etliche Prunkstücke: zwei seidene Sessel, anfangs in graue Ueberzüge gehüllt, und ein großer, goldener Trumeau kontrastieren" (7). The family's penchant for valuables shows an imitation of bourgeois customs rather than a lower-class consciousness. By the end of the nineteenth century, economic expansion in Germany spread across the empire, making Germany a global power. During Robert's nearly ten years away from home, his family had become ostentatiously materialistic. This gap decade in the narrative corresponds in many respects to the economic changes affecting Germans in the 1880s—primarily that of becoming a society of mass consumption. This is evident when Robert's brother-in-law opines: "Ich bin ein schlichter Mann und sag' meine Meinung frei 'raus. Ick liebe die Kinkerlitzchen und das Gethue nich. Denn wer so schwer arbeeten muß wie unsereins, wem der Hunger und die Peitsche ejal im Nacken sitzen" (24). The fondness of "Kinkerlitzchen" expressed here contrasts with the traditional nineteenth-century German values of industriousness and thrift. One needs only to think of the many maxims that implore against frivolous spending: "besser sparsam leben, als im Elend verderben" or "Sparsamkeit und Fleiß machen Häuser groß."

The cupidity of the Heineckes is most evident in the scandalous love affair between the youngest daughter Alma and Kurt Mühlingk. This is the point at which Robert's outmoded sense of decency collides with his family's corrupted morality. Upon learning the details of the situation, Robert is incensed, "Denn was sie [Alma] thut und mit sich thun läßt—in aller Unschuld natürlich—, widerspricht mein Ehrgefühl" (49). Sensing that Alma has been exploited in her naiveté, Robert takes it upon himself to rescue his family's honor. He therefore makes plans to bring his family with him abroad in order to escape the entanglement caused by the inequality of the Vorderhaus and Hinterhaus juxtaposition. The concept of Heimat, as usual in the works of Sudermann, is presented here as the problem. Many of Sudermann's narratives are set into motion through the introduction of a "Bote aus der Fremde,"19 which is seemingly commonplace in literary texts of naturalism. In the works of Sudermann, this typically entails the homecoming of the protagonist who had longed for a return to her or his Heimat but finds that (s)he no longer belongs there as in Katzensteg (1890), Heimat (1893), and Es War (1894). Characters like Robert developed beyond the scale of their [End Page 6] homeland during their time away, which serves as the locus of conflict in the story. Each is like an embodiment of Nietzsche's aphoristic wanderer who can gauge the height of the towers of his own city only by leaving it. Robert opines to Count Trast, "Ich glaubte, zur Heimat zurückzuführen, und stehe einer fremden Welt gegenüber, in der ich kaum atmen wage" (47). Instead of confronting the source of his family's dishonor, Trast advises him to extricate his family from Berlin and the shame that has been heaped upon them. This plan is foiled when Mühlingk offers the family a hefty sum for them to leave the Hinterhaus and move away in order to save his son's honor, which they immediately accept to Robert's dismay. Although Robert imagines himself to be the savior of his family's honor, it becomes apparent that his rigid sense of morality is absurdly passé, and he must be rescued from himself at the end.

While the first act introduces the milieu of the Hinterhaus, the second act appropriately presents the Vorderhaus. The stage directions suggest a pompous décor in the salon, with a "reiche, doch etwas steife Ausstattung" (51). The arrangement of the second act displays a domicile that is shedding the mid-century Biedermeier Gemütlichkeit that had been emblematic of the German bourgeoisie in favor of a grandiose, if not bombastic, display. Change within the bourgeoisie is also evident in the generational contrast between Kurt Mühlingk and his parents. Although the latter no longer amount to the wholesome mid-century character of the middle class extolled in Gustav Freytag's paean to the middle class Soll und Haben (1855),20 Kurt's debauched character shows yet a further decay of traditional bourgeois values. While he enjoys a comfortable lifestyle through his family's means, his father represents the liberal-bourgeois ideal of social climbing through hard work and diligence that is evident when he says to his son, "Ich bin ein schlichter, bürgerlicher Mann … Ich habe mich durch eigne Kraft aus kleinen Anfängen emporgearbeitet" (53). While Mühlingk remains in touch with middle-class traditions, his son has adapted a mentality typical among the wealthy business elite during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II. As Dolores Augustine writes, "The Wilhelmine upper bourgeoisie may have claimed thrift as a middle-class value, but it lived in ever-growing luxury."21 This luxury afforded by the upper tier of the German bourgeoisie reflects Germany's ascension as an industrial and military power. The correlation between power and luxury is also evident in Mühlingk's business operations. In addition to his domestic factory, he also has the surplus capital to dabble in the lucrative business of colonialism, which he has appointed his derelict nephew to oversee. This nephew's only qualification for such responsibility is his birthright, and much like his cousin Kurt, lacks the foundational characteristic of bourgeois productivity. When confronted with this reality, Mühlingk excuses it accordingly, "Von meinem Neffen ist mir schon gestern berichtet worden.—Es geht ihm gut … er amüsiert sich … ein wenig zu sehr. … Nun, das Kavaliertum liegt den Herren aus guter Familie im Blute" (151). Mühlingk's apologetic reaction in this instance follows his learning of the reality of [End Page 7] his colonial investment via Count Trast. While his nephew has been occupied with pleasure seeking, Robert has been solely responsible for managing business affairs, and profitably so. Robert stands for middle-class virtues, while his haute bourgeois counterpart represents the debauched upper crust. Just as Anton Wohlfahrt in Soll und Haben was compelled to rescue the debased aristocracy, Robert has been saving another class that needs to be rescued from its own misguided tendencies. It is only that the upper middle class has replaced the aristocracy.

As the fortunes of the elite bourgeoisie climbed, they began adapting customs and practices of the aristocracy. This phenomenon finds representation in Die Ehre, making possible the claim that there is not only interclass traffic happening between the paradigms of the Vorder and Hinterhaus, but there is also a third locality of exchange that is not explicitly represented in the drama: the landed estate. Through their purchasing power, the elite echelon among the German bourgeoisie was able to adopt behaviors that were anathema to the classic modest characteristics of their class. Such tendencies of the bourgeoisie at the turn of the century, however, were not exclusive to Germany. The American economist Thorstein Veblen notably identified ostentatious spending and recreation among what he called the "leisure class" in his The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).

By the end of the nineteenth century, conspicuous consumption and status hunting of the bourgeoisie was a transnational tendency, which certainly contributed to the pervasive theme of degeneration at the turn of the century that Max Nordau maps out in his synonymously titled 1892 cultural critique Entartung (Degeneration). For Nordau the phenomenon of degeneration is a cultural and social ailment identifiable in the decay of time-honored traditions and values that he attributes as the origin of the physiognomic degeneration of Western man. The themes of social, cultural, and biological deterioration at the turn of the century most readily call to mind Thomas Mann's masterpiece Buddenbrooks (1901), but Sudermann's social dramas of the 1890s are also acutely conscious of this discourse. In Die Ehre this is seen at the beginning of the second act as Kurt Mühlingk boasts to his family after dinner about his newly acquired horse, to which his father can only disparage about the price paid:

Kurt: Wie gesagt, der Rappe ist famos!Mühlingk: Aber teuer!Kurt: Teuer—ja lieber Gott!


For Kurt, it has less to do with the use value of the object than the opulence it exhibits, while Mühlingk cannot behold an object without thinking about monetary value. This fetishism of status objects is not restricted to the Vorderhaus but also finds expression in the Hinterhaus.

If the bourgeoisie was adopting the consumption habits of the aristocracy at the [End Page 8] end of the nineteenth century, then the petty bourgeoisie was modeling their tastes on the haute bourgeoisie. Robert takes notice of the conspicuously fine objects that his family has collected in his absence. Frau Heinecke is quick to talk about the luxury furniture: "Zwei Stück haben wir. Und hast du dir den Trimo schon anjesehen? Lauter joldene Ranken und das Glas aus einem Stück. Aujustens Mann sagt, der kost't mindestens 200 Mark" (19). Here, the discordance of the proletarian dialect of Berlin boasting of fine objects leaves a strong sense of irony. These possessions, however, take on an even deeper meaning when we learn about their source: the Vorderhaus. The Heineckes are willing to tolerate the shame that Kurt Mühlingk brings upon their household through his affair with their daughter Alma in exchange for material goods.

In the first act, Frau Heinecke explains to a friend the patronage their family has received from the Vorderhaus. Pinpointing the reason, she says, "Aber das sind nun so an die siebzehn Jahre—da bekam der aus dem Vorderhause, was unser Brotherr war, die Kommerzienratstitelatur" (10–11). Frau Heinecke identifies the title bestowed upon Mühlingk as signifying a turning point in their fortunes, and indeed it had a special significance among the bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century. Kommerzienrat was an honorary title given by the state to worthy members of the business community. The title imbued the bearer with a certain sense of cachet, and members of the bourgeoisie carefully positioned themselves to receive it. In addition to a sense of personal pride, the recipient was at an advantage in terms of financial dealings, while it also opened new social opportunities for the bearer as well as influence with the state.22 In the case of Die Ehre, such a title is a further indication of the wealth and power of the Vorderhaus, but it is also a caricature of this particular subclass of the bourgeoisie at the turn of the century. Since titles such as Kommerzienrat were a peculiarity of the German middle class, Sudermann takes the opportunity to criticize what he perceives as the provincial nature of the German bourgeoisie in comparison to their international counterparts.23 Curiously enough, Sudermann, who was by many accounts considered to be the German bourgeois author par excellence of his time, maintained a high degree of "bourgeoisophobia" throughout the duration of his career, and depicting the perceived degeneration of the German middle class is a red thread that ties together the entire body of his works.

The Futility of Honor

Just as Robert's homecoming is spoiled by learning of his sister's scandalous affair, so too is his relationship with the Vorderhaus. The dramatic plot of Die Ehre reaches its pinnacle through the dishonor dealt to the Hinterhaus by the Vorderhaus. As the title suggests, the subject of "honor" is central, and its treatment frames it as a German peculiarity. The so-called Standesehre or noble honor remained a serious business in Germany at the turn of the century—so serious, in fact, that the practice of dueling in order to maintain it continued well into the twentieth century.24 By the turn of [End Page 9] the century, Germans were still dueling with frequency, but it seems that in Britain and France the mystique of this masculine cult had become exposed as an illiberal practice of a bygone era.25 German men of honor needed to present themselves as Satisfaktionsfähig, or capable of defending or offending this value, which depended on social standing.26 Members of a higher class therefore did not partake in duels with the lower classes since it would not restore any injured sense of honor. Furthermore, "To be worthy of dueling meant being given the same social status as the adversary … indeed, here was a ready way to draw the line between those who were acceptable to society and those whom society attempted to marginalize or to exclude from power."27 Dueling, therefore, was more prevalent among the upper social classes, and rampant in the realms of the university and officer corps. Die Ehre exposes this cult of honor in all of its peculiarities by demonstrating its anachronism in 1889. Although the subject of dueling in literature more readily calls to mind Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest (1896) and Arthur Schnitzler's Leutnant Gustl (1900), Die Ehre directly targets this subject. Sudermann returned to this contentious subject with his novel Es War (1894) and his one-act play Fritzchen (1896). In the latter work especially, the social ramifications of this practice are explored through the vehicle of a young officer in training who has blemished the honor of a senior officer. As the young cadet faces an impending duel to take place the next day, which would almost certainly spell his death at the hands of the vastly more experienced officer, Fritzchen's father advises his son to maintain his honor and proceed with the duel. The message here is clear: the value of honor is to be defended ad absurdum.28

The inability of the concept of "honor" to aptly represent a consistent meaning is demonstrated throughout the drama. While honor serves as an ultimate barrier between the classes, it also undergoes negotiation with each interclass encounter. What results is a dialectical process of competing class senses of honor. As the figure Trast quips, "Jede Kaste hat ihre eigne Ehre" (47). The relative usage of the term shows a value that fluctuates in magnitude depending upon the circumstances. For example, the underachieving brother-in-law Michalski uses the term with derision when meeting his overachieving brother-in-law Robert for the first time: "Viel Ehre. Passiert nicht häufig, daß eine schwielige Faust zu so viel Ehre kommt" (23). In this instance, the concept of honor is mocked by a figure, who is not compelled to revere it because his low social standing. The negotiability of the concept is also evident in the case of Alma and Kurt's taboo affair. Just as Robert believes himself to have convinced his parents of the necessity of removing Alma from Berlin and going away with him to India in order to save the family from dishonor, Mühlingk foils this plan by offering the family a hefty sum to vacate the Hinterhaus in order to preserve his family's honor. Here, a monetary value is found that exceeds that of honor. Nevertheless, the endlessly wealthy Mühlingk also demonstrates that honor is not an inestimable value but rather has its own price, as does any commodity when he rescinds his initial [End Page 10] offer of 50,000 Marks, because it was too high, and offers 40,000 instead. With each interclass encounter in the drama, honor is revealed to be an inefficacious device of social order that is continually undermined.

The deconstruction of nineteenth-century honor is made plain to the audience through the figure Trast, who serves as the raisonneur and the conduit of the author's modern worldview. The turn-of-the-century reception of Nietzschean ideas is clearly manifest in him. In 1888 Danish critic Georg Brandes's famous lectures initiated the popularization of Nietzsche. By the early 1890s, however, the ideas of Nietzsche had become so pervasive in Germany that it was practically expected that members of the German Bildungsbürgertum be familiar with them.29 Throughout, the works of Hermann Sudermann resonate Nietzschean phrases, formulations, and ideas, which were becoming increasingly commonplace throughout the 1890s.30 Perhaps the most apparent is the Übermensch-nature of his protagonists, who are often lonely figures ostracized by their small-minded communities due to their unwillingness to conform to prescribed social roles and hierarchies. This is the case with the female protagonist Magda in his 1893 drama Heimat, in which she refuses to submit to patriarchal authority and finds success on her own terms. In his memoir, Sudermann narrates his own rise to success as a kind of Nietzschean feat, overcoming class barriers, impecuniousness, and finding his destined path as an artist. He maintains that when he finally had a breakthrough in the late 1880s, Nietzsche's ideas were reborn into him.31

One scene in the second act includes Trast haranguing Kurt Mühlingk and his upper-class friends about the senselessness of honor. Honor, he tells his listeners, does not exist as a singular truth but rather it is a multivalence that is beholden to perspective and subjectivity. He says, "Aber das Schlimmste bei allem ist, daß wir so viel verschiedene Sorten von 'Ehre' besitzen als gesellschaftliche Kreise und Schichten" (79). Trast's modern perspective of this outmoded value, however, is met with incredulity when one of his audience interjects, "Sie irren, Herr Graf. Es gibt nur eine Ehre, wie nur eine Sonne und einen Gott" (79). This line of reasoning conjures up mentalities of pre-Enlightened times that were dialectically altered with the rise of the Reformation and the scientific revolution. Likewise, a new turn-of-the-century modern spirit was in conflict with the aged nineteenth-century spirit. As the conversation proceeds, it becomes clear that his purpose of exposing the senselessness of this social code is to transvaluate time-honored values.32 To convey this he recounts a parable of a young man from a lower caste in South America who makes his way to Spain, where he acquires a sense of Castilian honor. Upon his return to South America, he finds that his sister was too close to another man of a higher class. He therefore takes it upon himself to correct this social taboo by killing his sister's lover, which he does and is subsequently convicted of murder and summarily executed. Trast asks his listeners, "Meine Herren, ist das nicht einfach lächerlich?" (82). This [End Page 11] parable not only presents a new irreverence toward the value of honor at the turn of the century, but it also foreshadows Robert's predicament with the Vorderhaus.

As a social critique of late nineteenth-century German society, Sudermann's Die Ehre bears some basic resemblances to Theodor Fontane's Irrungen und Wirrungen (Diversions and Entanglements) that first appeared two years before in 1887 as a serial in the Vossische Zeitung. For Botho von Rienäcker and Lene Nimptsch, much like the pairs Kurt and Alma, Robert and Lenore in Die Ehre, class barriers stand in the way of realizing their elective affinity for one another. In Fontane's novel the overarching theme of honor also plays a fundamental role in the narrative. Nearly identical to Count Trast's exposition of the topic in relation to different classes,33 Botho proclaims that "jeder Stand hat seine Ehre."34 In the case of Botho, a baron by title, it is precisely this honor that makes it impossible for him to further pursue his love interest in the lower-middle-class Lene. This is compounded by the precarious financial situation of his family and the expectation that Botho would expedite a marriage to his cousin Käthe whose inheritance would spell the rescue of the Rienäcker estate and the family's honor. Just as it is in Die Ehre, the concept of honor here is presented as a commodity.

In the case of Die Ehre, the tension caused by the concept of honor is far more intense than in Fontane's work. The dramatic economy of Die Ehre begins to rise when Robert decides there is no other path to rectifying the dishonor bestowed upon him and his family than to resort to a duel. Although Robert has been apart from the lower-class milieu of his family both physically and in spirit for a decade, his name and identity are still cloistered in the Hinterhaus. After Alma's dishonorable affair is revealed to him, he declares to Trast, "Ich schäme mich des Standes, in dem ich geboren bin" (47). In a life-affirming, Nietzschean fashion, Trast counters, "Unglücklich deshalb derjenige, der aus seiner Kaste herausgefallen ist und nicht den Mut besitzt, sich mit seinem Gewissen von ihr zu lösen" (48). The individual, according to Trast, must have the confidence and courage to stand apart from the herd into which he or she was born. Assuring Robert that he is not alone, he tells him, "Ein derart Deklassierter bist du, und du weißt, ich war es auch" (48). At this point it is revealed that as a young officer, Trast had accumulated a gambling debt, which his father viewed as a dishonor to the family, causing an irreparable rift between them. His desperation led him to a crossroads when his officer comrades gave him a pistol, suggesting the traditional solution to dishonor among the military ranks: self-annihilation. There was in the nineteenth century no social group more bound to honor than the officer class. The Prussian army designated both gambling and debt to be punishable sins against the honor expected of officers.35 Trast, however, chose to make a life for himself beyond the strictures of class and honor. He says to Robert: "Es haben sich Jahrtausende lang Menschen der Sonne gefreut, ohne sich von dem Phantom der Ehre verdunkeln zu lassen, noch heute leben neunhundert-neunundneunzig [End Page 12] Tausendstel der Menschheit auf dieselbe Art. Lebe wie sie, arbeite wie sie, und freu dich der Sonne wie sie" (49). It would be difficult to overlook the philosophy of Nietzsche in this invocation of praise for the ancient "Menschen der Sonne," whose spirits were vastly more complete and fulfilling than that of the modern Europeans. In his campaign to convert Robert to his philosophical worldview, Trast asserts a kind of moral relativism when he says, "Jedes Ding auf Erden hat seinen Tauschwert … Die Ehre des Vorderhauses wird vielleicht mit Blut bezahlt … die Ehre des Hinterhauses ist schon mit einem kleinen Kapital in integrum restituiert" (132). Here Trast reduces the concept of honor to a commodity by ascribing it an exchange value, suggesting the transmutable nature of social values.

Unable to convince Robert of the superfluity of recouping his family's honor deficit, Trast goes to Kurt to inform him of Robert's intention of demanding Satisfaktion in the matter, and pleads for him to avoid such a meeting so that it does not escalate into a duel. Kurt's friends who are present, however, counter Trast's appeal to reason. If Trast represents a modern Übermensch, Kurt's friend Lothar, a military officer, represents the opposite. Lothar responds to Trast's reasoning with nationalistic chauvinism: "Ein Appell an die Feigheit hat in deutschen Herzen noch nie einen Widerhall gefunden" (141). He is an embodiment of the unswerving cult of masculinity in the officer corps at the turn of the century, and advises Kurt to disregard Trast's prudence. Taking charge of the matter, Lothar interjects: "Du [Kurt] als Kontrahierender hast mit dem Herrn nichts mehr zu verhandeln! Erstens, Herr Graf, verlangt der Ehrenkodex, daß der Forderer sowohl wie der Geforderte vierundzwanzig Stunden Frist erhält, um seine Angelegenheiten zu ordnen" (143). Here, the absurd formality of such a barbaric practice is laid bare, and it surely found an accord with a large portion of the liberal bourgeoisie that opposed it. That the depiction of the officer class struck a particular nerve in Wilhelmine Germany, is further supported by the fact that officers were banned by their superiors from attending Die Ehre, which according to one former officer drew them to the play, only to feel offended by the figures of Lothar and Trast.36 The code of honor is further rendered preposterous in the climactic ending, when instead of dueling Robert pulls out his revolver in the presence of the Mühlingk family. Leonore intervenes first by telling her family that she plans to marry Robert despite not having their consent, thereby spoiling the chance of violence and Chekov's rule. Mühlingk's initial objections are quelled when Trast announces that Robert will be his partner and the sole inheritor of his lucrative coffee empire. Mühlingk's final words, "Aber—Herr Graf,—warum haben Sie das nicht – – –" (159), are a final proof that honor, like a commodity, is a fetishized concept without real value.

With the surprise ending (some have even described as a "fairy tale ending"37) disrupting expectations of how a nineteenth-century drama might conclude, it marks a step away from bourgeois realism toward a modern dramatic mode. This is readily [End Page 13] apparent when comparing the denouement in Die Ehre to that of Fontane's Irrungen und Wirrungen. While the two works are in concert with one another on various planes, they could not be more different in outcome. Fontane's work is a paragon of bourgeois realism with the affinity between Botho and Lene succumbing to social expectations. Lene's sober assessment of their relationship—"Was sollen wir mit der Hoffnung?"38—encapsulates the sense of pessimistic resignation characteristic in many works of this period. The ending of Die Ehre, by contrast, resists the expectations that social norms must be upheld by leaving open the possibility of a marriage between the Vorder and Hinterhaus, thus marking the break from bourgeois realism.

Modernization in the Reichshauptstadt

Commenting on the launch of his daily newspaper the Berliner Tageblatt in 1871, liberal media mogul Rudolf Mosse advertised: "At a time when the eyes of the world look toward Berlin, we present to the public the Berliner Tageblatt. The capital of Prussia has become the capital of Germany, a world city … We must be inspired by the thought that he who writes for Berlin writes for the civilized world."39 The theme of urban modernization is another aspect that sheds light on the changing social relations presented in the drama. Not only are certain features of city life at the turn of the century highlighted, but the Vorderhaus-Hinterhaus dynamic is also made possible through the breakneck pace of urban development in the German capital at the end of the century. The decades immediately following German unification in 1871 ushered in a flurry of changes including the rise of a growingly vociferous working class, the introduction of new infrastructure, and the implementation of codes and regulations to organize the housing sector in a city whose population had quadrupled in the last four decades. Sudermann contextualizes his drama in the backdrop of these changes. His talent for discerning what current topics occupied the imagination of the bourgeoisie, as well as the ability to weave them into dramatic narratives, can perhaps be attributed to his previous career as a journalist. This formula of seizing on contemporaneous social or political issues in his works might well explain his popularity and subsequent decline. Certainly, the topics accentuated in Die Ehre were discussed in the newspapers, salons, and cafés and were therefore highly relevant not only to Berliners, but to all who were fascinated with the growth of the new Reichshauptstadt. While this led to Sudermann being panned by a certain portion of the critical establishment as a Modedichter, it might be argued that this criticism itself demonstrates the value of Hermann Sudermann today, as offering a lens into the styles and topics of his time.

Housing in Berlin is a prime example of how social changes were generated through modernization initiatives. The Berlin Mietshaus or apartment block has its own unique character rooted in the eighteenth century, when buildings began to conceptualize the rear, courtyard side of the buildings as living spaces. With time, side [End Page 14] wings and then cross buildings were added. These structures proliferated quickly in the final decades of the nineteenth century, becoming typical for housing in Berlin.40 The construction of these buildings was largely aided by the Hobrecht Plan of 1862, which was designed to counteract some of the negative effects of rapid growth and to steer the city into the future. At the heart of the plan was to surround the cities of Charlottenburg and Berlin with two ring-shaped beltways, from which arterial roads flowed inward through the still-undeveloped areas between the cities. The plan stipulated that these streets were to be lined with middle-class homes on the street side, while lower-class abodes would populate the courtyards, thereby providing housing for varying social classes. As the plan only specified how this system was to be shaped, the regulations concerning the development of the tenement blocks were seemingly laissez faire. Because of the lack of further regulations, the tenement blocks became extremely dense in population as real estate speculators magnified profits by maximizing the number of rentable units. What resulted were hierarchically divided tenement blocks with ornate family homes of the upper middle classes in the Vorderhäuser and the often crowded, dark, and dingy apartments of servants, wage earners, and factory workers in the Hinterhäuser. The lower-class milieu of the Hinterhäuser became the subject of much criticism at the end of the nineteenth century—criticism that was heavily placed upon the plan's architect James Hobrecht. By accentuating the proximity in which disparate social classes were housed with one another in Die Ehre, Sudermann was documenting the social changes in real time.

Other technological developments in Berlin also find expression in Die Ehre. In the first act, as Alma and Robert are reunited after his return, Alma rapturously tells of all that Berlin has to offer. She exclaims: "Jeden Tag gibt's was Neues!—Und Berlin ist so schön! Weißt du—so die Linden! Und das elektrische Licht! Hast du das schon gesehn?—Das lieb' ich über alles! Man ist so schön bleich, so interessant! Und die Restaurants haben auch schon alle elektrisches Licht!" (30). Somebody returning to Berlin in 1889 after a ten-year hiatus would have literally seen the city in a new light. The first electric lamps were installed on Leipziger Straße and Potsdamer Platz in 1882 and the electrification of the city expanded drastically throughout the decade,41 giving Berlin the feel of a world-class metropolis in comparison to that of a provincial city. The cultural critic Georg Brandes reminisces about the discussion and debates surrounding electric lighting at its inception, emphasizing that people were occupied with how things looked in a new light in comparison to the dim radiance of the old-fashioned gas lamps. Critics complained "the new light to be much too light, to have a negative effect on the eyes and to make faces seem chalky."42 Alma, however, embraces the aesthetics of electric lighting, beholding it as an embodiment of Berlin's modernization and the transformative progress of modern Germany. Such efforts to convert Berlin into a world city offer another point of comparison between Theodor Fontane's Irrungen und Wirrungen and Die Ehre. The modernization of [End Page 15] Berlin, for one, sets the background to the melodramatic plot of the novel. Even Botho's archconservative uncle reveals his admiration for the progress when he heralds, "Ihr schönes Berlin, das immer schöner wird (so versichern einen wenigstens alle die nichts Besseres kennen)."43

The pervasive discourse of Berlin's ascension as a world city at the turn of the century is heavily reflected in Sudermann's Die Ehre. The young imperial capital was commonly measured against older major European urban centers such as London and Paris. In her effusive praise of Berlin's progress in the 1880s, Alma is quick to tell Robert, "Wir sind überhaupt sehr weit in der Kultur.—Einer hat mir erzählt, daß es hier schon fast so schön ist, wie in Paris" (30). The author's use of Paris as a benchmark for urban civilization is no surprise here. In the early days of Sudermann's success, critics often compared his style to that of French playwrights, and he indulged himself in these comparisons that reached a highpoint in 1895 when his drama Heimat was performed in the French capital with the great stage diva Sarah Bernhardt in the lead role. That the famed actress, who was widely considered a Germanophobe, starred in a German play was touted throughout the press as a signal of cultural rapprochement between France and Germany.44 Sudermann, therefore, was seen as a kind of cultural diplomat abroad, representing Germany's growing cultural magnitude.

One of the most compelling indicators of Berlin's massive modernization initiative is the development of the transportation system. Modes of transportation are invoked several times in Die Ehre to signal class differences and to highlight the development of this infrastructure. In the first act, after learning that Alma was invited to ride with Kurt Mühlingk in his carriage, Robert protests, "Für Mädchen deines—unseres Standes ist die Trambahn da" (40). While the Vorderhaus has the means to possess private modes of transportation, the lower classes are relegated to public modes. Transportation in the city therefore implied more than its practical purpose, performing also the social function of reinforcing class boundaries. Frau Heinicke pleads with Robert that by riding with Kurt, "Man erspart das Pferdebahn Geld" (39). In a later scene, after the family is promised money by Mühlingk to vacate the Hinterhaus, the Heineckes discuss what the money will enable them to do. Heinecke exclaims, "Und ick kann Pferdebahn fahren, so viel ick will" (111). The references to the price of the streetcars belong to the discourse about transportation at the time. Already in 1865 a horse-drawn tramline was introduced in Berlin, providing expedited connection to the various sectors of an expanding city. By the end of the nineteenth century the horse-drawn streetcars were ridiculed for their slow pace with the song "Ach, wie ist's gemütlich auf der Pferdebahn," and Berliners who came to depend on it were outraged when the price was doubled on holidays and Sundays.45 Die Ehre displays how commonplace an expanding system of transportation had become to daily life in Berlin. Already in 1881, Theodor Fontane remarked: "Berlin has changed exceptionally [End Page 16] and is now a beautiful upscale city. We owe this to many things, but the asphalt and horse-drawn tram by far the most."46

While Hermann Sudermann's adversarial critics were largely successful in ensuring him only an insignificant role in German literary history, there is still much to be learned from him and his works. As in the case of his breakthrough drama, Die Ehre, Sudermann was sharply attuned to the popular styles and topics concerning the bourgeoisie in the new Reichshauptstadt that quickly brought him considerable fortune and fame, but likewise a precipitous decline. The success of Die Ehre can be attributed to its showcasing the efforts of modernization in Berlin, social transformations underway, as well as its poignant social critique of contentious themes at the turn of the century. All of this combined with its effective dramatic form and resonating humor made Die Ehre a play that captured a moment in German history and the spirit of a generation.

Jason J. Doerre

JASON J. DOERRE ( is a visiting assistant professor of German studies at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut. His research extends from the nineteenth century to the present with a focus on cultural history and film studies. He is currently completing a book about Hermann Sudermann and cultural pessimism.


1. "Theater, Kunst, Wissenschaft," Berliner Tageblatt, November 28, 1889, 2. This translation from German and all following translations are my own unless otherwise noted.

2. "Hermann Sudermann," Der Reichsfreund, November 28, 1889, 382.

3. John Schikowski, "Hermann Sudermann. Zu seinem heutigen siebzigsten Geburtstags," Vorwärts, September 30, 1927.

4. Hans Wyneken, "Der Dramatiker Sudermann," Monatsblätter: Der Königsberger Theatergemeinde, no. 2 (1927): 3.

5. Bernd Witte, "Realismus der mittleren Schicht. Zu den zwei Fassungen von Hermann Sudermanns erstem Schauspiel 'Die Ehre,'" in Literatur und Theater im Wilhelminischen Zeitalter, ed. Hans-Peter Bayerdorfer, Karl Otto Conrady, Helmut Schanze (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1978), 121–138.

6. Raleigh Whitinger, "Self-Consciousness in 'Die Ehre': A Revised View of Hermann Sudermann's First Drama," The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 89, no. 4 (1990): 470.

7. Ingo Stöckmann, "Ausgemünztes Verhalten. Naturalismus und Moderne in Hermann Sudermanns 'Die Ehre,'" Zeitschrift für Germanistik 14, no. 3 (2004): 497.

8. Peter Sprengler, Geschichte der deutschsprachigen Literatur 1870–1900. Von der Reichsgründung bis zur Jahrhundertwende (Munich: Beck, 1998), 53.

9. "Theater, Kunst, Wissenschaft," 2.

10. Untitled newspaper clipping, Box 18, Folder 148, Page 38, Hermann Sudermann Collection, German Literature Archive, Marbach am Neckar.

11. Otto Neumann-Hofer, "Wie Sudermanns 'Ehre' finanziert wurde," Würzburger General-Anzeiger," September 30, 1927.

12. Fritz Engel, "Sudermann. 1857–30. September—1927," Berliner Tageblatt, September 28, 1927, 2.

13. Untitled article, B.Z. am Mittag, 22 November 1928, 6.

14. Some examples include Hugo Gerlach, Die vom Hinterhaus. Novellen (1894); Karl Siber, Vorderhaus und Hinterhaus (1914); Maximilian Böttcher, Krach im Hinterhaus (1934); Peter Nell, Der junge aus dem Hinterhaus (1958); Karl Hüllweck, Vorderhaus, Hinterhaus und der wahre Hintergrund. Verkündigungsspiele der Gemeinde (1964); Peter Berger, Im roten Hinterhaus (1966).

15. See Günther Dahlke and Günter Karl, eds. Deutsche Spielfilme von den Anfängen bis 1933. Ein Filmführer (Berlin: Henschelverlag, 1988).

16. Bleibtreu advocated for a new literature a la Emile Zola in his most notable programmatic work Revolution der Literatur from 1886. Dissatisfied, and evidently envious of the success of Hauptmann and Sudermann's success, he wrote a critical pamphlet titled Die Verrohung der Literatur. Ein Beitrag zu Haupt- und Sudermännerei, which is a word play of the title of Sudermann's own polemic against literary criticism Die Verrohung der Theaterkritik from 1902.

17. Hermann Sudermann, "Die Ehre" (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1903), 7.

18. Ludwig Stein, Aus dem Leben eines Optimisten (Berlin: Brückenverlag, 1930), 8.

19. For more about this, see Raleigh Whitinger, "Self-Consciousness in "Die Ehre."

20. Thought to be the most widely read German novel of the nineteenth century, Soll und Haben (Debit and credit) is an adulation of the German bourgeoisie, depicting its triumph over the aristocracy through hard work and humble spirit.

21. Dolores L. Augustine, "Arriving in the Upper Class: the Wealthy Business Elite of Wilhelmine Germany," in The German Bourgeoisie: Essays on the Social History of the German Middle Class from the Late Eighteenth to the Early Twentieth Century, ed. David Blackbourn and Richard J. Evans (New York: Routledge, 1991), 46.

22. On titles, see Karin Kaudelk-Hanisch, "The Titled Businessman: Prussian Commercial Councilors in the Rhineland and Westphalia during the Nineteenth Century," in The German Bourgeoisie: Essays on the Social History of the German Middle Class from the Late Eighteenth to the Early Twentieth Century, ed. David Blackbourn and Richard J. Evans (New York: Routledge, 1991), 87–114.

23. This socially critical attitude toward Wilhelmine society stands out in all of his works from this period.

24. On the practice of dueling, see Kevin McAleer, Dueling: The Cult of Honor in Fin-de-Siècle Germany (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).

25. McAleer, 207.

26. For more about dueling in "Die Ehre," see Ingo Stöckmann, "Ausgemünztes Verhalten."

27. George Mosse, The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 19.

28. For another look at the theme of dueling in Die Ehre, see Ingo Stöckmann, "Ausgemünztes Verhalten."

29. Steven Aschheim. The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany 1890–1990 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 19.

30. On Nietzsche's influence, see O.L. Bockstahler, "Nietzsche and Sudermann" The German Quarterly 8, no. 4 (1935): 177–191.

31. Hermann Sudermann. Das Bilderbuch meiner Jugend (Berlin: J.G. Cotta'sche Buchhandlung, 1922), 244.

32. In his memoir Bilderbuch meiner Jugend, Sudermann describes his earlier revolutionary spirit to be in line with Nietzsche's famous formulation: "Daß ich ein roter Revolutionär war, ein Atheist, ein Materialist—ein 'Umwerter aller Werte' würde ich gesagt haben, wenn es so etwas wie Nietzsche schon gegeben hätte," 268.

33. "Jede Kaste hat ihre eigene Ehre," 47.

34. Theodor Fontane, Irrungen und Wirrungen, in Kleine Romane (Munich: Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung, 1965), 108.

35. Ute Frevert, Men of Honour: A Social and Cultural History of the Duel, trans. Anthony Williams (Cambridge, MA: Polity, 1995), 48.

36. "Das Verbot der 'Ehre' für Offiziere," B.Z.W. September 30, 1927, 6.

37. Witte, 136.

38. Irrungen, 145.

39. Cited from David Clay Large, Berlin (New York: Basic, 2000), 12.

40. Rainer Haubrich, "The Berlin Tenement House," in Berlin: The Architecture Guide, ed. Markus Sebastian Braun (Salenstein, Switzerland: Braun, 2011), 77.

41. Haubrich. "From Capital of the Empire to European Metropolis 1871–1918," in Berlin: The Architecture Guide, edited by Markus Braun, 65.

42. Ruth Glatzer, ed. Panorama einer Metropole: Berlin wird Kaiserstadt (Berlin: Siedler Verlag, 1993), 280.

43. Irrungen, 124.

44. "Sarah Bernhardt," Berliner Tageblatt (Abend-Ausgabe), January 19, 1895, 2; see also "Aus Paris," Berliner Tageblatt (Abend-Ausgabe), February 14, 1895, 2.

45. Isidor Kastan, Berlin wie es war (Berlin: Rudolf Mosse Buchverlag, 1919), 69.

46. Letter from Theodor Fontane, June 2, 1881, in Panorama einer Metropole, ed. Glatzer, 291.

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