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  • "Komteß Mizzi": Eine Chronik aus dem Wien um 1900 ed. by Walter Schübler
  • Carl Niekerk
Walter Schübler, ed., "Komteß Mizzi": Eine Chronik aus dem Wien um 1900. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2020. 236 pp.

This volume is a "must-read" for anyone teaching courses on the history of sexuality and literature in Vienna around 1900. Overseen by Walter Schübler, Komteß Mizzi is a carefully selected and edited collection of documents (trial records, interviews, letters, and newspaper articles) all related to the "Veith [End Page 121] trial" that took place in Vienna in 1908 and at the time drew considerable attention from both the general public and media. Karl Kraus published an essay on it in Die Fackel ("Prozess Veith"), a text that would later open his collection Die Chinesische Mauer (first published in 1910), and the trial also touches on issues discussed in texts by Schnitzler ("Fräulein Else" comes to mind; against expectation, his comedy Komtesse Mizzi, oder Der Familientag, although published in 1908, is not based on this material), Freud's Dora case, and the anonymously published Josefine Mutzenbacher.

On April 28, 1908. Marcell Veith and his adoptive daughter Marie (eighteen years old, and publicly known as "Komteß Mizzi") were taken into custody by Vienna's Sittenamt, a branch of the police overseeing public mores. Marcell Veith, who had inherited the title of count—"Comes romanus," an aristocratic title given to his family by Pope Pius IX that officially is not recognized in Austria, although few seem to be bothered by his use of it—was accused of secretly prostituting his daughter. While Marcell was kept in prison, Marie was allowed to go home, where she wrote three letters, tolds her mother she wanted to make a phone call in a café, and committed suicide by jumping into the Donaukanal. Because of that act, her own voice is largely absent in the proceedings and from this volume (except for some letters, a diary, and a record of her being questioned by the police); only indirectly, through the testimony of others, do we learn more about her thoughts and motives.

From the age of thirteen, Marie was taken by her father to cafés, restaurants, and other Vergnügungslokale to let herself be entertained in so-called chambres séparées and Champagnerpavillons by wealthy men and sometimes also students at one of Vienna's elite high schools, the Theresianum. The idea was, at least initially and with an eye on the outside world, that Marie would find a wealthy Maecenas willing to pay for her education as actress (for a while she visited a Theaterschule). Soon Marie was providing the main source of income for her mother and adoptive father. Around age fifteen, after getting to know Leopoldine Jellinek, a professional prostitute, Marie and Leopoldine ("Poldi") together started to entertain men at Jellinek's home or in hotels, and with a clear division of labor: Marie was to stay "geschlechtlich unversehrt" and would not let herself "auf natürliche Weise gebrauchen lassen" to engage instead in a series of "perverse" practices (45, 47), while her companion, Leopoldine, was available for vaginal intercourse. During the same period, Marie developed a relationship with a serious boyfriend, Victor Widakovich, who was however for financial reasons judged unsuitable by her father and [End Page 122] harshly dismissed, first by the father and then by Marie herself. Eventually Marie's virginity was auctioned off by her father (under circumstances that remain not entirely clear), she and Leopoldine split up, after which Marie now met men on her own, mostly in hotels and sometimes at home.

In particular, the report on the autopsy of Marie's body is revealing: for several years, it states, Marie had been incapable to conceive due to a series of inflammations that were the result of a venereal infection (52). In court, Marie's father first maintained not to have been aware that sexual intercourse was taking place and, after that strategy failed, threatened to call as witnesses all of his daughter's 205 clients, a list that was eventually published and included the names of many famous men and their sons, among them "Stukart...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2327-1809
Print ISSN
2165-669X
Pages
pp. 121-124
Launched on MUSE
2021-09-03
Open Access
No
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