The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life/Chapter XIII
The following study of the life and literary productivity of the poet August von Platen-Hallermund, in their relations to aspects of the homosexual instinct, was originally prepared for separate publication, as a monograph. Its appropriateness to inclusion in "The Intersexes," and many requests that it should make part of this volume have decided its authour so to add it here as a final chapter. It may yet be convenient to make some detached use of it; hence a separate pagination is given to it, below that for "The Intersexes."
The Life and Diary of an Uranian Poet: August von Platen (1796-1835).
"Love devours me, and he is, coldness itself … O, why has Providence made me what I am? Why is it impossible for me to love women?"
"You have torn my soul from out of me, robbed me of my soul and left me only my body—a heavy, terrible burden" … O reader, whosoever thou mayest be, into whose hands these lines perhaps may come, lament for me, weep with me, that I should have suffered so unspeakably!"
(From Platen's "Diary.")
August von Platen-Hallermund, by aristocratic rank a count, a member of one of the oldest of Ansbach family-lines, and certainly one of the most gifted of poets in the portrayal of what is distinctively psychologic in similisexual love, was born at Ansbach, October 24, 1796; and died suddenly at Siracusa, Sicily, in November 1835, in only the fortieth year of a prematurely-ended career. His outward life was in no case eventful, compared with many poetical existences. It was chiefly, a matter of a short military-service, a considerable University-life, and then of about a dozen years of residence or travel in Italy, during which time his literary repute in his native Germany was reaching a high measure of critical and popular recognition. As a life, however, it was in no sense monotonous or stationary. Its inner chapters are a deep psychologic drama. Born of affectionate and careful parents, in easy circumstances, the earliest outward data to be noted include Platen's severe training, for the military profession, as a mere lad in the Cadet-School in Munich, till the year 1810; when, still a youth, he was enrolled among the royal pages of honour, at the Court of King Maximilian of Bavaria. There, during about four years of service and study, his naturally quick mind advanced materially, even under the "fashionable" tutelage of the "Pagery" School. He decided to enter the army as a profession, though with no real vocation for it. From 1814 till 1818 he was not only in a regular routine of home-service in Munich, but made the march with several other Bavarian regiments into France, to join the Allies, against Napoleon. The end of the Napoleonic campaign coming before Platen's division could take part in the action, he returned to Munich without a "baptism of fire." To the period following, his military life in Munich, we shall find that some of the most characteristic of the revelations of the earlier part of his Diary belong; although not of the impressive sorts which are met in the next stage of his restive existence—his student-life at Würzburg and Erlangen Universities. For, sensibly deciding that he was not born for soldiering, and having ideas of a diplomatic life. Platen turned from the army, to pursue philosophy, literature, political history and other matters, first at Würzburg University, then at Erlangen. He was a most close and. successful student. It was here, at these Universities that prolonged and notable episodes of his maturer, innermost, sentimental life are met. These quite surpass in emotional definiteness two or three affairs of a homosexual sort in his soldier-days. They include his relations to a fellow-student at Würzburg named Eduard Schmidtlein ("Adrastus"); to another student—Herman von Rotenhan; to Otto von Bulow; to the young law-student, Hoffman(?) who is named "Cardenio" in the Journal; to Justus Liebig; and to Karl Theodore German. They were all students with him, now at one time, now another, during his college-life; and successively they were central figures of the strange and affecting soul dramas that Platen has written out for us, in the Journal and in his verse.
Before the end of his student-life, Platen had attracted notice, even in high literary circles, by his poems and his brilliant satirical dramas. He abandoned his political dreams just as he had dismissed his ideas of being a soldier. He resolved to follow out what appeared to be a manifest literary destiny. His choice was justified. Though not a prolific comedy-writer nor a many-sided one, nor yet a versatile psychologic poet, still, Platen reached a high mark of popular and critical fame. The latter has not yet by any means lapsed. The Oriental poems known as the "Ghazels," the deep human feeling in the Sonnets, and the passion, rhythmic sense and melody of the Odes are always certain of admirers. As to his comedies, English readers will find them a sort of precursor of the kind of social-satire piece that W. S. Gilbert, in especial, has immortalized for the British stage—though himself modelling after Aristophanes—including the dressing-out of old theatrical figures and contentions with contemporary wit, biting irony, parody and poetic elegance. Platen's comedies do not hold the stage in Germany now; but there is no specially clear reason, as to some of the few pieces themselves, why they should not do so.
After 1826, Platen's want of personal liking for Germany, North or South, and his contempt for most of the aspects of its literary society and movements grew mordant. He became fairly Germaniphobic; a condition of temperament to which his homosexual nature contributed a good deal. At any rate, the brilliant poet's travelling in Italy became something like a residence there. In 1835 an attack of cholera, during the epidemic of that year, ended his life, at Siracusa.
Something must be premised here as to the Diary itself. From almost his boyhood, August von Platen had kept a diary. In it, with unreserved truthfulness, he wrote down not merely his educational growth and his literary studies, critical observations and much of his dayto-day interests of commonplace kind; but also his deep sentimental experiences of intensively homosexual course. The Diary obviously was at first meant, like most Diaries, for only its writer's eyes. Later, Platen saw that, as the mirror of what he thought was an uncommon kind of nature and sexual life, he would do well to let posterity see his pages. We may emphasize the words "what he. thought," in the foregoing sentence. For, psychologists of to-day know only too well that while such a history as Platen's is seldom given to the world, the sexual existences that could rival its disclosures are legion, in every land and race of civilized humanity. Several times, when Platen was reviewing his Journal, he reflects upon the increasing possibility of future readers, and even appeals to their sympathies, as in the citation heading this study. The records were written, to a considerable extent, day by day, out of hand; except as to the first two "Books" (the Diary is divided into "Books") which deal with his early years; up to October 22, 1813; which two parts are a sort of compilation made from earlier notes, but set out so as to make the biographical narrative complete. After 1813 the entries are all contemporary. During his lifetime, Platen seems not to have allowed anybody else to read the Journal, except perhaps in one unlucky instance, where one of his best friends is credited with so arriving at Platen's full measure of sexual abnormality; and with making a painful scene by what occurred in a public circle of their acquaintances. The Diary remained the truest confidant of what Platen well called "the weakness of the human heart, and a history of my own impressions." It continues past military and university days, past the first journeyings in Italy, on and on through his long-haltings there; to the very last days of his life. There are some seventeen volumes of note-books, as we are informed by the editors.
When in Germany in 1835, Platen gave all except the latest volumes of the manuscript to a friend. Dr. Pfeufer. But after Platen's death, Dr. Pfeufer and Professor Schelling, another near friend, and also the poet's mother, were shy of publishing the complete work. Its revelations were.too disconcerting. The poot's mother decided that the books would best be given to Count Friedrich Fugger, her son's intimate, confidential friend, who. would use it with discretion in preparing the biography of Platen that Fugger had in mind to make. But Fugger died shortly. So came the Diary back into the hands of Dr. Pfeufer. The public had been eagerly expecting a a biography of so distinguished a literary man as Platen. Only a small, dull section of the record presently appeared, avoiding carefully all the most important psychologic history and incidents. The more suspicious part of the public were mystified, but had to be content. (This edition frequently is met now, as the complete Diary of the poet.) But the bulky original remained shut away in the Royal Library of Munich, to be seen only by privileged eyes. In 1896, on the centenary of the poet's birth appeared the volume of the complete Journal, to the extent of one large moiety; and in 1900 came the concluding volume, deciphered and edited by Herr Laubmann (of the Royal Library of Munich) and his associate Dr. L. von Scheffler. This edition is absolutely complete, word for word, line by line, with Platen's own record; except where he himself tore out pages, now and then. The Cotta publication-house, in Leipsic, issued the edition; and it is the only one that should be consulted by persons interested in its absorbingly fascinating if painful history. Various recent summaries of it, reviews, etc., in German, French and one or two other languages, are conspicuously deficient or even grossly incorrect.
A linguist of great talents, Platen wrote the Journal not only in his own tongue, but—as to considerable portions—in French, Italian or Portuguese, and with citations from Persian. German however predominates. The Journal has not been translated into English, nor is likely to be so. The two volumes now presenting it in print are a rather formidable piece of book-making—together there are some 2000 large pages to read. The last entry is at Siracusa, October 13, 1835. A few days after that date, the diarist passed from earth.
In his moral character a man of the most elevated and sensitive sort, in his religious belief a Protestant, in the daily aspects of life highly practical, possessed of an idealizing temperament that naturally shunned all that is ignoble and animal per se,—Platen presents a type of the ethical quite as firm as his intellectual personality. Along with this comes a third aspect—his inborn intersexualism, homosexual passion, and æsthetic uranianism, from youth upward. He was outwardly a man, a soldier; he had a virile mind in his body. Yet nevertheless only the male appealed to his sense of supreme human beauty, to his great capacity to love, to desire love, to his sexual longings. The surges of spiritual and bodily passion that swept over his heart, even the lighter currents of sexual admirations, the chances and changes of his ideals and his yearnings, the fleeting happinesses of love that fell to him, its jealousies, its concealments, its struggles for attainment, its uncertainties, its renunciations—always some man is the object and end of these matters; never a woman. And as he matured, more and more unequivocally sexual became their fire. Whole groups of his poems sprang into being solely through these homosexual inspirations. By Platen's discreet avoidance of names, of prepositions that point out sex, by Oriental colourings and so on, there is no open offence given to the reader who either knows nothing of homosexual sentiment or has a prejudice against it, even in Vergil or Hafiz or Shakespeare. Only by reading between the lines, as one well may do after perusing the Journal now before us as the master-key to Platen's poetry, do we understand that poetry. For Platen lived under the curse—at least it is seldom a blessing—which makes a man's warmest friendships into sexual loves; which makes its victim seek through the world for the sort of "friend" (so often not to be met however near at hand) who will surrender all to the seeker, just as the surrender of the seeker must needs be all; that subjection to the law of a mystic and intersexual psychos that means probably the profoundest joy or misery of which sexual human nature is capable. More than this, Platen himself, like so many thousands of Uranians, did not till comparatively late in life understand his own nature; did not in harmonizing its workings with his inner moral and religious convictions; did not, free himself from the specters of his mistaught conscience. This, even though he was relatively early convinced that in his sexual struggles lay nothing base or bestial. First and last, we have his fine idealizing—indeed too fine for his own peace—and his virile morality, in all the Diary. We may note here that he was never weakly pederastic in his instincts. He found himself drawn chiefly to the sexually mature, to the manly youth or young man. Moreover he had, all his life long many friendships that, fortunately for his tranquility and happiness, remained unaffected by his homosexual tendencies; as is the case with most intellectual Uranians. He was warmly esteemed and respected by men who were really friends—not more, and. whom he thoroughly appreciated and valued. But when the attraction to another man began with the note of sexual passion, it generally proved to be such ad finem; and often like the old phrase of "Parrhasius" it was indeed "a mounting devil" that tortured—and lingered to torture.
The homosexualism of Platen cannot be traced to heredity here. But it seems typically inborn. Even in his boyhood, when only a royal page, amid the other lads of that aristocratic office in Munich, we find him experiencing what was a first and immature love, extremely ideal but vehement and never forgotten, for another young man, a guest at the Court, Count Mercy d'Argenteau, An even more vivid sexual-sentimental passion came to him through the charming personality of young Prince Oettingen-Wallerstein, whose untimely death on the battlefield of Hanau deeply shocked Platen. Yet prematurely strong as we shall find these experiences were, they become pale beside the chronicle of Platen's secret love for two young officers, Friedrich von Brandenburg (called "Federigo" in the Journal) and Captain Wilhelm von Hornstein; both which affairs came into progress during Platen's first military years. But in turn, these episodes seem superficial and jejune, when contrasted with the self-revelations of his passionate University-loves, during his semesters at Würzburg and Erlapgen. Here we meet with the records of, successively, his intimacy with Eduard Schmidtlein ("Adrastus"); with Hermann von Rotenhan; with young Otto von Bülow; with a student not clearly identified except as "Cardenio" (a pseudonym in the Journal); with Justus Liebig, and with Karl Theodore German. Also mentionable, as either earlier or at this time, are some other intimacies more or less homosexual in tincture, continued into his later years; though in some cases going through the mutation to "mere friendship," or else evaporating altogether from his heart and mind—those with Issel and Perglas, and with a passing military acquaintance (visiting Ansbach); with Kopisch, and so on. These however are not recorded in such graphic detail and poignant clarity.
Platen was never a woman-hater. On the contrary, he much admired the beautiful and the intellectual and the ideal-feminine in woman. All his life long, occurred intimate friendships with women. Several women fell in love with the man and poet. But no woman's beauty of physique, no sexualism in a woman ever appealed to the mature Platen. What is more consistent, even when he was a lad only once is there to be traced anything like a sentimental intimacy and feeling for any female human being. There occurred during his relatively boyish officer-days, in Munich, a superficial attraction over him from a young French girl Mademoiselle Euphrasie de B—, visiting the Court with her mother. To his own riddlement, Platen thought that "at last" he was learning what other young men do not have to learn—the falling in love with a pretty girl. But in his lines about it, we see that he had not faith in the sentiment himself, even when it occupied him in an idle way. He knew that he was on the wrong track for him, no matter what was for others the right one. We find him soon returning to his natural, passionless and 'asexual' feeling for women. Euphrasie de B— faded utterly and swiftly out of his memory. There was never any sequel to this boyish illusion.
Yet a word, before we take up the entries in the Journal—to point out that in the comedies of Platen there is hardly a trace of his homosexualism. Not in stuff, not in types, not descriptively—nowhere! If he had written some of the tragedies that he planned, doubtless he now would have yet another literary aspect. We might have had a "Conrad von Hohenstaufen," from him that would have surpassed Schiller's "Don Carlos" in its suggestions. But only in the Diary and the poems does the homosexual passion speak out. The private (and very large) correspondence of the poet is not published, will probably never be published, so far as it is now accessible extant. From that correspondence we could expect many of the same strange chords as in the passional confessions of the Journal.
Another prefatory note to be made here, is allusion to the gradual awakening in Platen of the physical side of his homosexualism; the long resistance on his part to physical attractions, to bodily desires toward his own sex. Only late and involuntarily in his experiences did he realize that there was no use in denying them or struggling against them—that love, love, it was that "devoured" him, not any merely ardent friendships; that in the phrase of "Phèdre" what burned him to the vitals was:
—"Vénus tout éntière a sa proie attachée."
In the Journal's consecutive "affairs," we trace clearly his change. He passed from a merely romantic longing for an "intellectual" relation with some young man to whom he was suddenly attracted, to the throbs of a glowing physical-sexual disturbance. Or, we may more correctly say, that we can follow the course of Platen's confessing to himself that his love for X or Y or Z was sexual. Not till the fifth or sixth affaire de cœur (that with the handsome Würzburg law-student, Schmidtlein) do we find Platen crying out that "the body has its rights as well as the soul;" and querying if "the former are more shameful than the latter?". The confession however is tardy. There are plenty of signs that he had ever struggled with the promptings of homosexual desire, in a sub-conscious way or almost so, ab initio. His misgivings, his very arguments with himself that are dropped out here and there, imply this. He would not admit the truth to himself till forced to do so; and some of his casuistry is naive; But such a vague state of mind ended when he was at the height of his passions for the beautiful Eduard Schmidtlein and for Herman von Rotenhan ("The last night we did not part, we slept together—") as with the chapters as to "Cardenio," Bülow, and German; and beyond doubt there were no more scruj pies of sexual conscience on Platen's part after Italy. Still, to the end, Platen veils the physical side of his feelings; as would any highly refined heterosexual or homosexual. The "Books" of the Diary numbered, XXI and XXII, give the clearest recognition on his side.of the power of his emotion, and of his. acceptance of its full sexual conquest over him.
As regards any real revision of the Journal from Platen, after that uncertain time when he decided to think of it as suitable for other readers, we find that he has not much impaired his confessions by tinkering them. In fact, he seems to have done little more—fortunately—than to tear out some pages that he did not wish any second person ever to read. There are a good many of these tearings-out; eloquent when one notices the connections in which they occur; guesses at his courage sinking as he reviewed them. But we have enough of the long history, as it is. Many entries are of great length. A considerable quantity of verse is also met in the Journal, some of which has not yet been re-printed in the editions of his Poems. But none of this unprinted poetical matter equals what has already been transferred to his published poetry—especially the Sonnets, Odes, Ohazels, some short pieces, and the pathetic First "Epistle to Cardenio".
In the following review of from the Journal the reader must understand that not the twentieth part of actual references that would be of high interest and appropriateness can be cited here. There will be given only a relatively fragmentary series, from pages here and there; demonstrating in Platen's nature the workings of one "affair" after another—especially the maturer episodes, those at Würzburg and Erlangen. The reader will find a brief study of several of (merely) the earlier incidents set forth in an article by Ludwig Frey, in the "Jahrbuch für Sexuelle Zwischenstufen" for the year 1899. Unfortunately at the date when that study was written the most important volume of the Journal had not been given to the public. Hence the interesting article by Frey is extremely incomplete, and contains sundry more or less salient errors of judgement or statement.
On turning over the Diary we find that—as might be expected—the first entries that we seek refer to shadowy, idealistic loves; much more fanciful than grounded in personalities. Platen mentions, years later (in October 1817, when he was passing a summer at Schliersee) that a friend in the Pagery at Munich, young Xylander, "was the first object" of his homosexual emotions. But no such entries as to Xylander, occur in the proper date. Instead we find that when Platen was sixteen years old, and yet a- page, he saw at a court-ball the young Count Mercy d'Argenteau, a relative of the French ambassador to Bavaria. The beauty and grace of this youth made a deep impression on Platen—deep, for it never wore away wholly. He always looked back to it with a throb of heart—the more feelingly because he felt, even to his latest years, that no physical sexualism had any share in it. Indeed Platen was spell-bound by this young d'Argenteau, merely by seeing him a few times; for he he never was presented to the young Frenchman and only two or three words—those by accident and of no importance whatever—passed between the two. But long entries in his Journal testify to his emotion. He writes later: "I wished for love: till now I had felt only a longing for friendship … How happy I am when near him, how my heart rises! A gentle excitement fills all my soul. Seeing him again has the same effect upon me as if out of his features, at the first glance, a new life name to my heart … I dreamed of him to-night—a fair and kindly dream, fair and kind as himself … Even if I never see him again, O, my God! let not this love be extinguished in me! It is the love for all that is Beautiful, True and Perfect … I will rejoice when I see him, and be sorrowful when my eye finds him not. I will think and dream and speak of him. I will love him to a passionate enthusiasm, I will call out his name in a fiery ecstasy when I am alone …" When the departure of young Count d'Argenteau from Munich was near, Platen's entries grow proportionately vehement: "—Is fate so inexorable? O, turn this blow from me, my protecting genius! I will do and suffer anything if only he can be allowed to remain near me … I cannot be without him. I feel that, as an indescribable void in my life." On seeing young Mercy d'Argenteau really for the last time, at the theater one evening, Platen slips into the box that d'Argenteau had just left, and carries away the programme that probably d'Argenteau had held during the performance! Now all this state of mind was aroused by the mere physique of a young man whom Platen never knew; scarcely could say he really had met at any time! But this is characteristic, and it was to be duplicated for awhile in other sentimental attractions. Young Count d'Argenteau, we need not say, left Munich in utter ignorance of what a male adorer he left behind him.
But at this same time, or only a few months later, Platen came under the spell of another "shadow-love"; one of an even more idealistic complexion. This was his passion for a certain young Prince Oettingen-Wallerstein, a kinsman of the King of Bavaria. This Prince Oettingen-Wallerstein seems to have been of quite exceptional beauty of physique, and a fine young character withal. His traits are to-day traditional in the family to which he belonged. His mental and moral promise was high. Platen made no more acquaintance with Prince Oettingen-Wallerstein than with young Count d'Argenteau. But again his idealism breaks out into a not. less clear and articulate love. There are several entries that sufficiently witness this, at the time, not to speak of numerous later ones. And Platen learned through this passionate fancy for young Prince Oettingen-Wallerstein what sorrow in love can mean: for the Prince was killed in the Battle of Hanau. Platen never grew indifferent to his image, nor to the painful emotion that this death excited. He was often greatly depressed by it. There are plentiful references to the deceased young soldier, and to moods that his memory inspired. Even in mature life, after all his later experiences of quite other sort, we shall find in the Journal that the Prince Occupied a special and sacred niche in Platen's heart; probably because the sentiment had been so initiative and tragic. When he heard of the death of Prince Oettingen-Wallerstein, he went so far in his grief as to write a letter to the mother of the Prince—a letter the tone of which seemed to him in after-years indiscreet, to say the least—begging the lady to send him some personal relic of her son. He never received a reply. But we can believe that he had his own sentiment in fair perspective when he wrote, by and by:—"I loved my dead, whom I had only seen three times."
Pace by pace, with the beginnings in this way of Platen's homosexual life (and but little later) were certain likings and attractions Jo young men that were more of the nature of friendships; some of these being his life-long ones, as mentioned. Yet.it is noteworthy in their connection that such relationships, no matter into what they developed, always began with a glow of homosexual love; With his being "taken" at first sight by merely the beauty of the young man in question; his sense of male beauty catching fire. And sometimes they balanced a good while, in a curious, a plainly homosexual and Uranian way, between friendship and love, love and friendship; till they calmed to friendship only. Or (as is so characteristic of the Uranian) he ceased to care much or at all for the originators of these emotions. Among these intimacies we have that with Messerschmied, with Count Friedrich Fugger, Gustav Jacobs, Nathaniel Schlichtegroll, Max von Gruber, Adalbert Liebeskind, Friedrich Schnitzlein, Joseph Xylander and Friedrich von Perglas. Four of these loved and valued Platen as their friend, in good and evil report, year in and year out. The still smaller circle of such true friends, including Messerschmied, Gruber and Fugger, became—more or less—Platen's lifelong confidants as to his homosexualism and its dramas. But that they were homosexual themselves, during any stages of the friendships is in no wise clear. When now and then, in after-life, that matter happens to be plainly spoken of between Platen and them, the denials on their part, plainly incidental to what they have to say to him, are not doubtful. We occasionally have sufficient reason to think that the beginning of these intimacies with Platen was on a mutually homosexual basis, in at least a psychic degree. But in any case, as time passed, these friends became "just friends", nothing more; ever invaluable as such to Platen. He was a mystery to them. They did not understand his sexualistic riddle as it matured. But they were wide-natured enough, if not experienced enough, to contemplate it philosophically and kindly, and to do what they could to guide and help their friend if he needed them. Max von Gruber and Fugger were peculiarly Platen's confidential repositories of his troubled life. They were worthy of his trust, even where.they did not—approve. The reader is particularly referred to the long entries in the Journal as to young Perglas, who was a fellow-officer; and to the records (in Book V) as to Issel, a handsome young painter. With Issel, Platen struck up a rash, enthusiastic, sentimental intimacy, full of a quality of abnormal regard. Issel and Platen became bosom-friends for some weeks; travelled about Tirol together; and then Platen found out that they were completely unsuited to intimacy! In this history, as in others, fault appears to have been not a little with Platen. Issel seems like au affectionate, impulsive fellow, while Platen was arrogant and impatient and tactless. After several trivial contentions, Issel quitted Platten at Aibling. After he had gone, Platen realized with shame that his own stupid pride and want of tact had driven a good friend away, and he laments, too late, his ill behaviour. But in the relationship with Perglas (see the many entries in the Journal) we have more curious examples of how Platen could conduct himself when mixing up friendship and love. Perglas appears to have been rather well suited to be a friend to Platen, as Platen to Perglas; especially as we cannot help surmising that Perglas was psychically homosexual—at least bisexual. But somehow neither young man was able to be perfectly straightforward and frank with the other. Neither would trust the other with his heart and nature. Perglas, more than once, in his sexual attitude toward women, with his plain sympathy for Platen's vaguely defined nature, hints at a hellenic sort of bond as desired by him, too. But their half-confidences and Platen's disputes and dogmatic ways, repelled Perglas. They quarrelled and made up, quarrelled again and made up again—constantly. They could not be happy apart, yet could not get along when together—in large part because of hall-confidences rather than complete ones, and also because Platen's temperament was at no time easy to meet. It was exacting, often bitter externally, in a nervous sort, of way; while all the while he might be most passionately desirous of the good-will and intimacy made almost impossible by such conduct. Bitter tears of shame and loneliness did this failing of his temperament cost him! Not till rather late in his life could he get the better of it—in part. Perglas and he were presently separated by duties. Their friendship became one by letters. Some of those from Perglas were impassioned enough; as when he declares that he "cannot exist" without Platen. Perglas died in 1820. Platen was preoccupied with other affairs at that time. We may note here that though he speaks of the absence of physical desire in any intimacy of this period, yet he uses one expression concerning his relations with Perglas that show that he was far from being quite unsophisticated or—unexpectant. But the two friends seem never to have taken what Platen termed "the last step," even in their passionally affectionate days.
Of himself, at this period Platen writes (June 1813): "I saw no women except of that artificial class that comes to a Court. These could not attract me. So may it have been that my first warmer inclinations went out to a man. I will not say that I had not any understanding of unplatonic love: still, I would rather call what I, felt an intense, inner respect than a special sexual inclination." The "special sexual" attraction for him was to become evident to him presently.
For verily his third homosexual love (distinguished from any contemporary friendships, even if ardent) was certainly of the real tincture; albeit again we have in it far more a process and spell of idealizing, of dreaming, than of interest based on even a slight personal knowledge of the object. It was a wholly one-sided sentiment, due solely to another man's beauty of face and figure. But it was a powerful and unhappy passion. It had a distinct and lasting connection with Platen's sentimental life. It entered immediately into his earlier poetical expirations. He had become an officer in Munich. As it happened, that winter found him unusually solitary, several intimate friends being on duty elsewhere. He speaks of himself as having grown especially indifferent to some recent episodes—the recollection of the young painter Issel, the little feu-follet glow of his feeling for Euphrasie de Boisesson both were completely past. He writes: "In this mood of ardently longing for love, it happened that at a concert on November 12, 1814, was present a young officer of the——Regiment, who caught my attention." The young officer was a certain Captain Friedrich von Brandenstein, a cuirassier. He was blond, quiet-mannered, of excellent family, and of a type that, as we find, suggested to Platen the vanished Count Mercy d'Argenteau. Platen writes: "Prom this accident developed a long love, which defied all separation, to every impression of which I surrendered myself, and which filled my heart with a cloud of dreams. The officer mentioned was that 'Federigo', who in my later pages often is so named."
"A cloud of dreams", indeed! For we find that Platen never exchanged more than a few utterly insignificant words with Captain "Federigo" von Brandenstein. He never was on terms of writing or of other real acquaintance with Branden stein; was part of the time—most of it—unknown to Brandenstein even as a street-acquaintance or fellow-officer. But Platen thus nourished, wholly by a process of idealism, what really did become a life-long love; such even amid many other realities of like sexualism. Once again Platen had met his fatal "type," in outward shape at least; and he gave himself up to an obsessive longing for it, like a woman. In reviewing this Brandenstein affair, awhile later, Platen mentions that the various occasions when he saw Brandenstein, as on the street or at parade or in a café, "served to strengthen my madness, and to establish a perfect passion in me—mild in its general characteristics [?] though often amounting to a heated longing." But he insists that in all this incoherent emotion he had not at this time "any idea that a punishable [i. e. physical] relation between two men could exist; otherwise I would probably have been frightened back from it. Some time later, I found man-to-man love outlined in several literary works, and referred to these my awakening to a notice of the topic"—and to his Plutarch readings. "But at this same date, I was still ignorant that sensual-sexual passion could come into play here—that unblessed secret was first clear to me by reading some indecent verses by Piron … Never did lust desecrate my feeling for Federigo." But whether "lust" here was present or absent, this passion for Brandenstein was the kernel of Platen's psychic life in Munich, during many months. He haunted, usually in vain, the places where he could even get a look at Federigo, could see "that divine profile." He wrote Federigo epistles (all unsent) in verse, begging sympathy and "friendship", depicting what might be an intimacy between them. Page after page of the Diary has Brandenstein's "dear name", with little or nothing but thoughts for him, sighs for him. Several of the shorter and earlier poems of Platen that will be met in his published works relate to his love for this almost unknown comrade. Two highly characteristic Sonnets, written seven long years later, when much else had happened to Platen's heart—as we shall see—were the result of a chance glimpse of "Federigo". Both the young men were presently obliged to quit Munich, for the last chapter of the campaign against Napoleon. There was never any.further nearing, even after each had returned to Bavaria. But that made no difference. Platen was fettered. Occasionally he fancied that Captain Brandenstein might be interested in him, in turn; and equally timid or too proud to begin an acquaintance!—a notion lacking any sufficient ground, to say least. Most likely, Brandenstein never had the remotest of what was going on in the soul of that quiet, taciturn young Platen; probably did not think a dozen thoughts of Platen during all the stay in Munich! Platen could worship in mute yearning … "Never were his features so attractive to me as this evening … I followed him through the street …" And later he says, writing on the night when Platen himself was ordered away from Munich, … "All is over. I have come from'the Court-Concert. I have seen Federigo perhaps for the last time. Oh, I see too clearly he scorns me [!]—I must go without saying farewell … My heart is broken. I have been ready to go away from here, I was glad to do so, but now it seems to me as if I were held fast by chains of adamant." … A poem of several hundred lines follows, being a romantic dialogue imagined between himself and Brandenstein. Well may Shakespeare's clown remark, "We that are true lovers run into strange capers!"
During the long marching across into France, Platen's passion for Federigo, his frequent anxieties for Brandenstein's actual safety, his hopes, longings, reminiscences, all recur. When passing through Nitry, (August 15, 1815) we have this: … "But the bitter certainty not even to hope for B—'s acquaintance and friendship brings me into a sort of despair. I must live days, months, years, without seeing him … the darling of my heart for almost a year—the eternal object of the dreams of my fancy, he whom I so deeply love, he whose noble features recall to me the image of M [ercy d'Argenteau], he whose acquaintance is the crown of my wishes…", etc. etc. The recurrent allusion to the haunting "type" is noteworthy for psychologists in Uranism; as so often at the base of a homosexual admiration. When Platen was back again in Munich, he breaks out (Jan. 15, 1816): … "O Federigo! If I am to be disappointed in you, why do I not find it out? If I am not to be so, why am I not made happy? I do not see you, I do not find you, I know nothing of you: but I love you, and if this pressure, this suspense, continue as now, the very tissue of my nerves will be torn to pieces." Here many pages of the Journal are cut out by Platen's own hand. Again … "O Fritz! O Federigo! Knewest thou my love and my constancy, thou wouldst reward them." Another long and impassioned entry at this time is for Jan. 28 1816 … "Poor glowing heart, …" and so on. And all this hyper-erotic state of mind was a matter of nearly complete idealism! Platen was in love, at sight, with the physique of another young man; on it he was building up a whole sentimental fabric of glowing sexual-psychic desire. But just so can be bred and nourished any sort of iove, heterosexual or homosexual; often purely such stuff as dreams are made of. As to the end of the "Federigo" affair, it never completely ended; as has been mentioned. The blessed image of the young of Munich remained in Platen's heart all through his career, especially in Munich. Even at the Universities, it tormented him or thrilled him. It was a sort of permanent criterion of the depth of his sentiments for his later flames.
Just at this time, in Munich, and during the march to France, Platen's love-friendship (the. grade of that special feeling in Platen is hard to characterize here) with his brother-officer, Perglas was in course. As has been said, it was anything but a smooth course. Perglas and he could not part psychically, and did not, till death removed, Perglas untimely from the world; but they never came really together. There is excellent reason to believe that a certain mysterious episode in Perglas's officer-life in Munich, rather later (in the winter of 1817)—his desertion from the garrison and from duty, for some days, his disappearance and his return, in a pitiable state of shattered nerves, was a meditated plan of suicide, because of sexual depression. It was an incident in which Platen behaved to his friend with brotherly care and judgment. But to the last there is no record of a due degree of confidence between this strange pair, even when an hour of mutual disclosure might be expected.
But a new personage was now to appear on the scene for this idealistic poet-soldier. Like the matter of Mercy d'Argenteau, or of Prince Oettengen-Waller stein, or of Brandenstein, this affair, was sheer idealism, concentrated on a handsome comrade's exterior. Inasmuch as a brief personal acquaintance really was at least the finale of it, it was a trifle more concrete than its predecessors. Among the Munich officers was a certain Captain Wilhelm von Hornstein, a remarkably good-looking officer, of rather notable family, as well as being a Knight of Malta—which Order, as the reader may remember, is one vowed to celibacy, not to say to chastity of every sort. Hornstein was a man of entirely mediocre, commonplace, matter-of-fact psychos; not in the least intellectual or romantic. But unluckily Platen did not find this out till too late. Platen fell in love with him, vehemently. Between Platen's own shyness and the difference in their ranks, with some other circumstances, Platen did not meet this new idol for a considerable while. During all the interim, the Diary is a daily witness to longings, dreams, doubts, hopes, fancies, rhapsodic outbursts, and so on; exactly as in the case of "Federigo." Moreover, this Hornstein affair was growing just in the time that "Federigo" was so potent in Platen's soul. Hence we shows a good deal of the distress and surprise, natural to any fine and inexperienced nature, that a man can be in love with two human beings at once. This appeared to Platen a sort of mysterious monstrosity! He is ashamed to discover his "inconstancy," or—capacity. He does not understand how hearts are the subjects of "type-preposessions", over and over again—simultaneously. A plurality of loves seems to him disgraceful. On February 26, 1816 he writes: "My mood was never gloomier and heavier than yesterday evening. I was filled with the thoughts of only Wilhelm. Alone and lamenting, I sat at my writing-desk in the night".. And he reviews sadly how nearly he had met the beautiful Hornstein at last: "I came home and I threw myself on my bed, in a glowing longing. The sun and the new day have lightened only a little my yearning, along with a dream of Federigo. Is it not strange that I could dream of the latter, when I was so full of Wilhelm?" Then as if in self-apology, he says: "I love the first-named still—always; but I have not the least hope of meeting him, and I see him nowhere now." Platen's self-contempt for what he thought was a sort of vapourish weakness in him, apart from moral questions involved, quite filled him with unhappiness. A few weeks later, perfectly worn out with self-introspection, he went and confided the whole story of his excited heart to his good and true friend, Schnitzlein. The step was dangerous. Many friends might have cast off the confessor of such "abnormal" passions. But not so young Schnitzlein. He did not pretend to understand Platen's nature. He was wholly Dionian—we may infer. But his affection to Platen held firm. He gave him excellent advice toward proper self-restraint, resolution and silence; and generally showed himself to be a model friend. In fact, all through Platen's most detailed grandes passions we find that Schnitzlein and Max von Grüber were his best guides and guards.
Nevertheless, in spite of this relief by having such a confidant, Platen had many unhappy days and nights till the end of the Wilhelm von Hornstein love-passion. He came at last to a slight acquaintance with Hornstein; one of speaking terms only. He got no comfort from that, because he did not enter into any real acquaintance by it, and also because he saw no signs that Hornstein was in any wise attracted to himself. The entries of March and April, in this same year, are positively despairing. Several times Platen considers suicide. Filial duty and religion restrain him: "… O, if I could but mark one single sign of his kindly- interest, or even of his notice of me! I am without rest! I cannot stay in this condition!—it disgusts me. I can think of only one thing. I may be called the weakest and most contemptible of men—I cannot help that." Again we hear him exclaim (March 23, 1816) "I am lost! I see it clearly and plainly that I am lost! … Mock me, ridicule me, scorn me, ye men—I cannot help it. All my will, all my concentration, I have brought to bear—but only one subject can I think of, day and night. I spoke with him to-day, during parade—but I see only too clearly that I am nothing to him" … Only one means is left to guide me out of this misery—Death. Death—that means a suicide" …
It is superfluous to point here the evidence that what tormented Platen so fiercely was not merely the negatively "intellectual" relations with Hornstein, but the stress of sexual desire. He must have been deeply the victim of honest self-deceptions when he tried, later or at the time, to believe that no corporeal thrill, no concrete physical yearnings coloured his sentiments for Brandenstein and Hornstein. He was a robust young man; the physical passion constantly must have sought its outlet under the seethe of this sort of similisexual fire. It was not mere torturing "idealism". The outcry "I am lost!" may well point out his terror at finding that his abnormal passion was a physical one, as well as a psychic condition; a tendency never to be "cured."
Fortunately the unconscious Captain Wilhelm von Hornstein was not to trouble Platen's heart, nor to beget thoughts of suicide, or anything else for long time. Already Schnitzlein had warned Platen that if he, Platen, once came to know Hornstein—even a little—all his queer illusions about that blunt, commonplace officer would vanish; that he would find Hornstein a dull, uninteresting, rather rude type of man; no matter how handsome. Now, Platen had worried about just this possibility, more and more. He suffered; but he dreaded a broken idol. Once (March 19, 1816) Schnitzlein had even assured Platen that Hornstein was "not capable of a true friendship." Platen found this outlook "terrifying, frightful, deeply depressing." But so came the affair to an end! For, one night, Platen had to divide the watch with Hornstein; a chance he had longed for. So came their first real conversation, and his first clear impression of his Adonis. Platen found Hornstein ill-bred, vulgar, commonplace. There was no ground for any sympathetic intimacy whatever between them. From that moment, Platen's passion sunk to dullness. In a few weeks it was wholly extinguished. A few later meetings of a tame sort, friendly but not alterative at all, completed Platen's "cure" of the Knight of Malta! Platen was too honest with himself to struggle along against the real for the sake of the ideal. But he suffered much in being disillusioned. (One dolesome and long entry, that of April 9, 1816, is worth reading.) There were spasmodic fits of idealistics for Hornstein. We find Platen once kissing the sofa-pillow on which his shattered idol's "dear head" had rested. But in an entry of April 30, he says … "Almost my last spark of inclination for a man not worth it is now extinguished." Then, in a sort of pathetic healing-quest we find him harking back to Brandenstein (see the entries between April and June, of the year named) and there is a deal about his renewed devotion to only the beautiful "Federigo." In August 1816, occurred the odd little episode of his vain attempt to get a silhouette portrait of Brandenstein, by a thoroughly feminine ruse. But (this is significant) he now fairly had learned what great differences may exist between one's ideal of a man and the real individual. He dreads being "disillusioned" again. He applies that dread to "Federigo." ".. O, that he may be the sort of man that I suppose!" Platen however never came to that knowledge. Possibly it was lucky for him. His perplexities darkened: "Father in Heaven, teach me where real happiness is I Teach me the true wisdom of life——or let me meet my end!"
The reader must not think of Platen as doing nothing but a little garrison-duty, mooning over love-affairs, writing a voluminous Journal, and inditing love-verses, during all this unhappy Munich period. On the contrary, he was assiduously studying languages, the best literatures, aesthetics; making with remarkable zeal his preparation for some sort of an intellectual life, presently to be determined on and followed. He was the soul of system in his use of every day and evening. He was already a brilliant linguist (at nineteen years!) even to writing verses of elegance and accuracy in several other languages than German. He was a solid reader, and many tranquil spare hours went for that. It is worth notice that he did not think, either now or during many years yet to come, that his poetical talents would warrant his becoming a professional man of letters. His idea was to get into diplomacy or something else intellectual. During this summer (1816) he made a tour in Switzerland alone, in June and July. In it we see how his perceptive powers and his nature judgment constantly acted. By this absence from Munich his general health, as well as his spirits, were vastly improved. On his return to military duty, he found that Brandenstein had left the city. Platen felt that this was well-timed. He seldom saw "Federigo" again. The winter passed with a good deal of depression, solitude, love-hunger, and gloom; partly through his mere reminiscences, partly because he had now earnestly to consider just what he ought to do in life if he was not content to remain a soldier in active service—as he certainly did not wish to do. There was also much correspondence, with Perglas; in course of which Perglas writes that he "finds it unendurable to be parted" from Platen. But Platen, though affectionate, is not warmly responsive to Perglas, so far as we have any word. In the autumn of this same year, 1816, Platen was for awhile on leave in Ansbach, his home. He was always delighted to return to his parents. So came during this visit of a few weeks, a new love-affair. It was not at all violent, and it was short. Still it was enough to occupy Platen's heart and his ideal-æstlmtic sensibilities for some days, and to furnish several long entries in the Journal. The object was a young cavalryofficer, indicated only as "D—A—." This "D—A—" was also on leave, visiting some Ansbach friends—the Freiberg family. Platen frankly speaks of the affair as only a sentimental "stop-gap;" a mere reaching out of his then sorrowful and empty heart for any sort of a new intimacy that would thrill it. Platen was tolerably thrilled. But now he seems to have determined to be on his guard as to cultivating any illusions only to be undeceived in a male charmer. "D—A—" was wholly a woman-admirer, not to say already in love with one of the young ladies in the Freiberg circle. So Platen "hoped" the less from him. The interest lapsed. In Dec. 21, Platen wrote that he felt himself "cured" of "D—A—." He notes: "This is the first victory of my reason over my heart." His heart had not been possessed with much ardour. He adds: … "Never for a moment has my inclination taken on a passionate colouring—that is to say I have never, in my inmost self, wished for D—A—'s acquaintance; I have never counted it a happiness, in a word I have never loved him. How much I feel ashamed that I have allowed him to gain even so much power over me!—" etc. etc. All which is tolerably loose casuistry of the erotic impulse. There is interest in observing that Platen's "type" haunted him here again: for he says (Dec. 9) that D—A—reminded him much of a certain handsome young French officer, met at Melun.
The Diary during this Ansbach visit is full of serious self-study as to weightier matters than similisexual loves; of conclusions almost always wise. Incidentally, we find Platen here lamenting his failure as a social companion, as guest, as member of a lively general circle anywhere. In truth, not till his latest years did he shake off the self-consciousness and reserve (it never was conceit) that made him a poor foregatherer in gay, commonplace circles. Indeed Platen in such relations, as in more intimate life, stands before us as most unlucky; and also as a striking lesson of how not to make friends, how not to please. Genial temperament, natural manners, spontaneity, lightness of touch and tact are so much of the secret of making and keeping one's friends! We must take pains to be lucid—or to seem lucid—or else we will be alone in the world. Platen's gradual sense of his own social defects cost him many sad moments.
He had almost determined to leave the army, as 1816 ended. But he returned to Munich (January 17, 1817) and passed the winter still in duty, though really mostly busy with hard study of literatures and languages. It is here that he speaks often (and regretfully) of being sure that, however graceful his verses have been, he has no right to think of ever becoming a real poet: The friendships with Perglas, Schnitzlein, Fugger, Lüder, and others continued. It was in this winter that the strange little episode of Perglas's escapade from duty took place—as has been mentioned in a preceding paragraph, (Febr. 2—3, 1817) Occasionally the un-met Brandenstein appeared in the city, and stirred the old fires up again; glowingly too. One entry (Feb. 15, 1817) remarks: "I doubt if Federigo be the last individual in whom I shall seek an ideal friend—whom I shall, however, never realize." This remark is eloquent of the fate of most such refined homosexuals. The- Spring of 1817 was Platen's final one of military service. He describe himself sadly as "drawing more within myself" daily; as "not having one single friend" at this time. That remark means merely that he was not in love with any young man, in spite of all his affectionate friendships; and that he was longing to be so in love! Such a status is classic. It is not badly described in a graceful trifle by Francis Beaumont,—this "Pining for Love" on general principles—and quite impersonally:
"How long shall I pine for love?
How long shall I sue in vain?
How long, like the turtle-dove,
Shall I heartily thus complain?
Shall the sails of my heart stand still?
Shall the grists of my hope be unground?
Oh, fie!—oh, fie!—oh, fie!
Let the mill, let the mill go round!"
Platen passed the time at Schliersee in incessant study, especially of the Latin classics; also in out-door life, and in writing verse, some of which is of import in his earlier published work. He continues nevertheless to feel scruples as to poetize at all, but "knows not what demon lures me to poetry-making," He has much, as usual, to observe concerning his own perplexing individuality; and—while the study of ourselves is by no means a safe guide really to knowing ourselves—doubtless Platen ripened and widened his character and cast some useful "cross-lights" on it during this Schliersee stay. Some of the retrospective passages in the Diary during this studious, solitary, summer (exactly such a summer as stimulates or depresses many and many a Uranian) have much interest, especially those in October. More striking are the memoranda, now quite positive, of Platen's realizing that he was out-and-out homosexual in his nature; incapable of loving any woman; destined to love only the male (see October entry, page 837, of the same First Volume) and his awakening knowledge that this sort of passion must needs be much a physical one, however clear its intellectual fire. He remarks at this time that he "trembles most" at discovering how his "inclination is directed toward his own sex, not to the feminine one." Yet apologetically he asks: "Can I change what is not my doing?"—the just, the eternal uranian appeal to Creative Fate. He likewise wonders whether should he marry, on a basis of friendship with some bride, sexual love for her would gradually come—another most frequent query in the mind of the similisexual of our date, and often such a dangerous illusion. Here too is a striking passage in the physical-sexualistic key: "I am at an age when love is demanded, which will not be satisfied with friendship.. Without any sensual feeling there can be no love. Federigo has never, in any way, awakened in me a base sexual-sensual impulse. But what if that should come as to others! O, rather than that, let some chasm open, and swallow me up! I would be lost! I would waste away in misery; for I never could attain my goal, I would shudder to reach it! How easily a noble love can lead us to the edge of despair I know: but how fearfully a sensual fire must ruin the whole man, that I have not yet experienced, though I have a cruel portent of it. So much is there in the world that makes me wish that I had never been born! "The passages here italized are eloquent of Platen's obstinate, troublous fight to convince himself that he had loved and had not desired; could love and yet not desire; and that there were really great distinctions between the complexions of this or that ardent passion already "experienced." Clearly what with his "cruel portent" and many other sub-currents of emotion, he had become by no means so "idealistic," as he had kept on writing himself down to be. If favoured in any similar affairs in the future, he would not be able to hold himself in firm physical check. He knew it now. In any case, he was soon to find out just the very thing that he so dreaded, or wanted to think that he dreaded, as the "goal" of such a love.
A few months later, in the Spring of 1818, after again visiting Ansbach and returning to Munich to regulate his money-affairs and his military discharge for a term of years at least, he matriculated at Würzburg University. The writer of these pages came upon his signature, the other day, in turning over the old University Register—a clear, bold writing, however disturbed and anxious as to the future may have been the young newcomer that penned it on that now yellowed page.
At Würzburg, where Platen entered himself as a student on April 5, 1818, he found several of his older friends glad to see him, and to bid him godspeed in his next career as a student. Gruber and Massenbach were among these. Platen fairly plunged into incessant belles-lettres reading, language-study, lectures in special or regular courses in philosophy, and in other matters. Immense was his eagerness and his satisfaction of mind at being at last free to do so, and able to concentrate his mind on such work. But (the reader already will have foreseen this) he soon found that he was not happy. Mere intellectuality cannot satisfy most healthful young Uranians. Platen was vaguely longing, restless, craving, for—what? Of course, for some new sentimental predicament, for the turning-round of 'the windmill' aforesaid, whither was coming all too much grist. A new love seemed likely to center on a handsome young classmate named Döllinger (afterwards the famous head of the Old Catholic Movement) with whom he was considerably taken. Of this came "only a friendship." But in June (the entries are of June 14, 15, 18, 21, 22, 24, and July 2, 4, 6 especially) came the Awaited. Platen happened to see a young student in the Law-Department, named Schmidtlein—Eduard Schmidtlein: who, by the by, we must not confuse with Platen's old friend Friedrich Schnitzlein. Eduard Schmidtlein became almost forthwith the object of one of Platen's most vehement passions; the center of a perfect seethe of the physical, as well as of the mental, in the unlucky poet's heart; his fellow-actor in a strange and not undramatic series of sentimental incidents.
Eduard Schmidtlein is called, during all the earlier entries of the Diary, simply "Adrastus." Platen did not know his baptismal name for a long time. Schmidtlein was of a well-to-do Bavarian family, was a good routine student, and afterward became a professor of law of some distinction—rather early. For more than a year we find him the center of Platen's, whole inner existence. What is more, Platen fought with Schmidtlein the Waterloo of his battle to love "without being sensually stirred;" land presently learned, all too thoroughly, after meeting Schmidtlein, that physical surrender and bodilyare the very nerves of the mystic drawing to manly beauty that the Uranian feels.
There is neither necessity nor possibility in undertaking here to detail all the course of this Schmidtlein affair at these. First, of all, not for many months did Platen get to a speaking acquaintance with his new idol. He did not began to exchange visits with Schmidtlein till within about a year. This delay was partly because of the normal slowness of conducting such acquaintances at Würzburg at the time; partly because Platen and Schmidtlein were both hard students, in totally different courses; partly because there was a difference in their social classes (the aristocratic Platen being quite superior to a "Bürgersohn" like Schmidtlein); and last, because Platen's nervous shyness kept him aloof. The hundred entries prior to May 1, 1819, call Schmidtlein only "Adrastus." But the reader will easily surmise that Platen could make his passion white-hot by his sheer idealizings as to "Adrastus," without one word of speech between them. This dangerous faculty blew the hidden fire into a perfect conflagration, within some two weeks of merely looking at the handsome young Münchener! Love, despair, jealousy, hope, melancholy speculation as to what Schmidtlein suspected of the affair or thought of him; moral, social, psychical questions—these entries surge along in a stream of homosexual sentiment for months. Above all, grew Platen's worship of Schmidtlein's "dazzling beauty," his "divine eyes" and harmonious voice. The dulcet voice of Adrastus inspired the lines "Lass tief in Dir mich lesen," and in many other poems printed in Platen's series, The person meant is Schmidtlein, though so many readers might well fancy that a girl was the object. Much of the Journal in 1818 and 1819 is written in French, Portuguese, and occasionally in English. Platen wellknew now that his ardent emotion was no vague intellectual one, but a downright sexual longing. He recognized that the mystic "goal" of which he had such fear, was what he must attain, some day,—however with agony of conscience. He cries out: "O pain without end and measure! O inexhaustible anguish! Never, never did I love thee [Adrastus] as in this moment!" … "He would laugh if he knew how I adore him. "… Then later he asks: "Has not the body its rights, as well as the soul? Are the rights of the one any more shameful than those of the other? …" etc., etc. Platen knew himself now, verily!—its leaps and bounds of growth, its frequent supposed subsidings, and its final imperiousness. The entries are in sharp contrast to the mass of those that deal with Platen's busy intellectual life at Würzburg, in the business of which it wrought now and then a nervous havoc. There are not less than three-hundred pages of memoranda about it! The main aspects and episodes are
Nevertheless he is glad that "though Schmidtlein's. … "beauty has cast a spell over me, physical lust for him has not yet polluted me." This is a queer phrase, that we can take in more than one sense. Just at this time, by the by, Platen's reading included a group of authors well-suited to enlighten him on classic and modern similisexualism and its "lust"; to-wit Anacreon, Meleager, and the Greek Anthology of erotists in general, Ovid, Tibullus, Propertius, Guarini (from whose amorous "Pastor Fido" are abundant quotations) Johannes Müller's ardently homosexual correspondence with his beloved Bonstetten, and many other such. The Müller-Bonstetten letters powerfully moved Platen; set him to sighing much—after a Bonstetten for himself.
But meantime, "Adrastus" Schmidtlein was by no means unaware of some sort of an unusual interest going on toward himself on the part of 'that young Count Platen.' This is certain, by what we afterward learn from Platen's many references to Eduard's demeanour toward himself, Eduard's glances, and so on. This knowledge—or suspicion—on Schmidtlein's side becomes plainer from what Eduard confessed much later (Aug. 22-23, 1819) when he disclosed a sexual secret as to himself, long hidden. But not coming any nearer Schmidtlein just now, Platen went to young Massenbach, who knew more or less of Platen's nature and seems to have been homosexually intimate with Platen in their earlier days, in some degree. Platen asked Massenbach to contrive to present him to Schmidtlein; as Massenbach knew the charming Eduard pretty intimately. Massenbach agreed. But though he spoke with Schmidtlein of the introduction, nothing came of the plan. Schmidtlein seems to have fended it off. Poor Platen grew more mystified and despairing than ever; for this upshot hinted at a real indifference, on the side of "Adrastus", even to their knowing each other.
But finally they met. There was no go-between. Platen broke the ice. March 17, 1819, they spoke; on the street. After some weeks, not earlier, began visits between them. Platen made the first call, with much timidity, May 1, 1819. To his relief he found that Eduard was a refined, gifted and most serious character; worthy of friendship, whatever else might come with that. The few letters from Schmidtlein that presently are quoted at full-length sketch his type, though we have no way of judging of a physical beauty that so fired Platen. But Eduard still hung back. The acquaintance stayed "roasted all of one side," like the famous Shakespearean egg. Edward did not return Platen's visits. He said that he "would call," then did not call; and generally he avoided Platen coldly, though'never with actual discourtesy. What is more, something like male coquetry soon appears, if vaguely, in Edward's attitude toward Platen. It is an element quite in logic with what presently we shall discover as to Eduard's psychic self. But, in 1819, we find that the two young men had become really intimate. By June, they were walking, studying, reading, talking confidentially, and so on day by day. Platen was alternately most happy and most—"unsatisfied." This is easy to understand.. There is little reason to doubt that Schmidtlein now amused himself by doing what Platen expressively calls "exciting the power of his personal beauty" on Platen. Platen became only more and more aware of his own distinctly "sensual" yearnings for Eduard. Thus on June 3-8 1819, he says of Eduard: "Coming into my room, he dazzled me, like the figure of a demigod …"; and then we find an aspiration that has an almost comic effect, if we did not realize the moral terror underfying it … "If only Heaven will deign to grant me an unvarying purity of soul!" Some months earlier, had occurred already a long retrospective entry; in which Platen reverted to his still "unextinguished" love for Count d'Argenteau, for Brandenstein, and even for Hornstein, as all so much "less sensual" than this passion for Schmidtlein. By the by, in this revue amoureuse he does not mention his early relations with Xylander, nor those sentiments that had carried him so far with the young painter Issel. But now Platen becomes even more helpless, and hence more casuistic. On June 8th, we read of a walk with Eduard; when …"I held him embraced by the middle of his body, which darling burden pressed on my shoulder. One could say that this was sensually remarked; but if my soul be pure, why cannot I enjoy the sense of his beauty?" …Yes, certainly "one could say" that any such entry was not one of love for the mere abstract! But the tide of sexual passion was to rise much higher, and to carry both or them along with it, this time. A few days later, (June 7, 1918) sitting in a retired corner of the beautiful old Hofgarten, in Würzburg, reading together a most appropriate drama, "… we held each other embraced. His head rested on my breast. Our cheeks often touched"… Platen may well exclaim, when in a sort of Rausch by the memory, "These aspects … are joyful, but from one standpoint too dangerous. A hostile goddess can separate us, while wishing to unite us—the goddess Passion. We are young, and we love each other ardently. But I hope that God will aid us to leap over this abyss. I believe that it will be best for us to interchange frankly our ideas on this subject, and to fight off the enemy with United forces …" Was there ever a more amusing, pathetic, childish, and fatal policy toward mutual self-control, in any sort of love-affair? One wonders if Platen could have believed such a procedure to be of common sense! Was it practiced at all? At any rate it did not help. For a fortnight later (June 22) while alone together in a little garden, over at Heidingsfeld, near Würzburg, "… Eduard at last gave himself up to me with a tenderness without reserve, a tenderness equal to mine. Wo were simply one soul, and our bodies were like two trees whose branches interlace closely forever." Ah, Platen had no illusions now that his love must not be crowned with "sensuality."! But his moral conscience was in an agony. He speaks of this "surrender" in a letter, by and by to be written (mentioned in his entry of November 11 1819) to Gruber, as "the catastrophe of this melancholy history, and my crime;" which the sensible Gruber declares was merely "a betrayal through passion," adding that "although I myself detest the vice, by God and all that is holy, I do not in the least detest you for it!" But in spite of his troubled conscience, Platen exclaims that at last, once, in his life, he can say that he "has lived!" He affirms that such a state of things between him and Eduard increases, not lessens, the "ideal" qualify in his sentiment for Eduard. That delusion is as old and instinctive as the eternal war between natural and artificial ethics.
But this sudden unity was not to continue. It had to suffer a sharp defeat, for precisly that same reason which had given it such similisexual completeness. During the next few weeks, Eduard Schmidtlein avoided his new bosom-friend as much as before; causing the mystified Platen much wonderment intstead of verbal discussions. The letters of the mysterious Edward are remarkably dignified, well-expressed, manly epistles; but all are reserved as to statements why he had concluded that the intimacy was 'not best;' in excusing his sudden relapse to a "cold" attitude'again; Through his letters, we read how thorough had been his similisexual surrender to Platen's passion. He observes that he feels that they have misunderstood each other, and are really not suited, after all, to be intimate friends. They must part! "It is best for us," writes Eduard, "our two hearts will never fully understand each other, and I am truly sorry that I have found you one with whom I cannot as a friend get into harmony, though you have my esteem and respect in the highest degree." And now comes a pertinent, abrupt fact. A few days later than this letter, when the two were over at Kottendorf together, (Aug. 22-23) Schmidtlein confessed to Platen that he was wholly indifferent to women sexually, and was miserable because of this conviction; evidently hoping and resolving to change his nature. Of course, this rather explains Schmidtlein's conduct, both before and after this confession. Troubled by conscientious qualms or other obstacles, he would not give up the inward battle, any more than will many an Uranian today: and finding Platen to be so "like himself," recognizing Platen's uranistic nature, little by little, from the first moments, Schmidtlein had been unwilling to begin their friendship, and now was resolved to interrupt it. Schmidtlein's instincts—and Platen's passion—had betrayed Eduard farther than he had expected. At least these aspects are strongly hinted. But Eduard denied in this Rottendorf interview a physical inclination for his own sex, while also denying most positively that that he was inclined to intercourse with women. Altogether, Eduard appears to have been in a most unhappy, fairly sincere trouble of mind about himself, sexually; and sorry that he had "surrendered." Besides this, there seems to have been a strong influence exerted on Schmidtlein by a certain fellow-student and "friend," named Bannwarth, who had aimed at preventing the intimacy with Platen, as now at breaking it off. One cannot but suspect Bannwarth's hand in this whole affair; especially as we find that Eduard "told Bannwarth everything", empowered Bannwarth to act as a sort of attorney for him; and even gave Bannwarth all Platen's letters to read!—a queerly callous sort of proceeding!sorrow. What was worse, as the month was ending, Eduard wrote to Platen that he had decided that mutual relationships between them would best not be continued! An abrupt interview, and naturally a bitter quarrel, resulted: then came a reconciliation; but not a satisfactory one. "Eduard loves me," writes Platen, fresh from the embraces of his adored Adrastus, "but he is the most singular and inscrutable of creatures." Several letters are interchanged,
In great distress, Platen writes: "Eduard is the first man, so like myself that there is nothing I could hide from him—and now he says that we must part. I asked him if love or virtue be the cause. He would not answer. I said that if he wished to conquer himself, I had the same intention, and so we could become guardians of each other." (!) On the 22 of August, going to find Schmidtlein early one morning (and Eduard being still in bed) after a passionate interview of farewell, full "of all our first tenderness," they agreed on a sort of compromise—not to part wholly, but never to speak of love or friendship again, and to remain on relatively distant terms. A few days later, the college-term was out. Eduard left Würzburg for Munich, and Platen, also free, went to Iphofen, a small town not distant, for the vacation. This separation brought on a painful climax to their amourette. On September 1, we find that Platen, much moved by absence, passion, love-longing, and so on, has written to the beloved Eduard a certain long and erotic poem, evidently full of just the forbidden topics—love, friendship and their relationships to each other. This poem originally all was transcribed in the Diary; but Platen cut most of its lines out, later. The letter which went with the poem is not cited: perhaps it too has been cut out. The poem ends:
Hier schmecken Küsse noch einmal so süss,
Und wir bedürfen, ja, nur uns allein.
Um ganz vergnügt, und ganz beglückt zu sein!"
Gruber had prophecied right. Despite that robust tempest, certain brief, pacific notes were presently exchanged; and when Platen and Eduard met again, at Erlangen University, each promptly "made up" their violent difference. And the more carefully we look into this romantic bond and its episodes, between two young men not over well-suited to be too. closely linked, the more its obscurities clear. There is no doubt that Eduard Schmidtlein cared deeply for the intellectual, enthusiastic Platen: but also little doubt that Eduard availed himself of a merely passing incident to break their tie because of "conscientious scruples;" as well as because he did not find in Platen the exact-type to satisfy him homosexually. The mysterious Bannwarth may have had a rôle, now past in the drama. At any rate, over in Erlangen, the two became again warm friends. Such they remained, though—so far as we can discover—they did not renew the sexual characteristics of their tie. (Eduard did not remain at Erlangen.) How aggressive Eduard Schmidtlein had been toward allowing Platen's passion to rise we divine by many allusions, including Platen's remark—after answering the "horrible letter" from Eduard—that he, Platen, did not once reproach Eduard even with what had been Eduard's fault … "exciting my senses by means only too efficacious," etc. etc. But that their love-drama was played-through seems less of a trial to Platen at Erlangen; because Platen while there grew interested in a wholly new—and a much, much happier—homosexual intimacy, that with Herman von Rotenhan. Then, too, after Rotenhan had left Erlangen, came the even more kindly and captivating Otto von Bülow liaison; then Liebig; then the ill-starred "Cardenio" passion; then Karl Theodore German—and so on. Schmidtlein's real spell ended in Würzburg. Again, Platen now ceased to struggle so conscientiously with his own natural, sexual-sensual nature. He ceased to expect that innermost loves were to be mere friendships; he ceased quite to wish the attainment of a simply spiritual "goal." He had learned his lesson—that "the body has its rights as well as the soul" in such loves; though he was never gross in yielding to the conviction. To the last, Platen was an idealist. Ever he demanded beauty of psychos as well as comeliness in a young man he loved. He and Eduard Schmidtlein saw each other, by accident, for the last time, as late as 1824, in Regensburg, when Platen was otherwise preoccupied; the charming Eduard already a young law-professor in Göttlingen. But there was then no spark of the Würzburg fire.
The years at Erlangen University were most important ones in the intellectual life of Platen: and in much besides. He studied almost to excess in his daily courses. He was particularly under the instruction of the celebrated Johann Wagner and also under Schelling. He read enormously in many distinct and large literatures, occidental and oriental, classic and modern. At twenty-two, his literary and linguistic knowledge was prodigious. Better still, the life at Erlangen little by little worked a kindly change on his nature. From being shy, self-conscious, opinionated in type, he expanded now into a much more genial, companionable Sort of young man. Introspective and moody he ever was; but he brightened and clarified at Erlangen. His first general notice, as a promising poet and dramatist began here; and it decided him on literature as his real profession, not diplomacy or what else.
Nevertheless here at Erlangen, with the vibrant homosexualism of his nature as a recognized and deeply-lamented fact in his mind, ever dreading the sensual side of it but wholly unable to dismiss it, came to Platen the four or five experiences that shook him to the very center of his being, either in joy or pain. Two of these episodes, as we are glad to discover, were happy; although on the contrary, two of them were anything but that. They are none of them written-out by him at such length and detail as the Brandenstein, the Hornstein, or the Eduard Schmidtlein affairs. He grew now much more self-contained. He was not so unaccustomed to regard himself in such a light. He had less time for his Diary. But the lovedata fill many pages, and they should be read in extenso by any one at all interested in the study. In what remains of our summary, they must however be much condensed; I shall give only relative outlines.
The first subject of Platen's Erlangen susceptibilities was a certain remarkably handsome young student, an intellectual, amiable and dignified fellow, named Herman von Rotenhan; of a distinguished family (to-day well-represented) a youth who afterwards became a noted provincial statesman. Von Rotenhan lodged in the same house with Platen, in fact in the next room. Rotenhan came in November. Platen saw him standing in the passage, and fell in love with him at sight. They immediately exchanged calls. Platen discovered that Rotenhan was quite all that his attractive exterior promised—a gentleman, wholly sincere, frank, high-minded, sociable and romantic withal. So began their friendship, enthusiastically. Platen was not without immediate uneasiness, as he remarked the danger-signal of sexual feeling rising, to disturb his merely idealizing sentiment for Herman. And, just as before, so now he juggles with the evidence. On November 6th, he exclaims that he "hates love, and all its frightful caverns" (!). He has resolved that somehow he does not care "even to take Rotenhan's hand, nor to embrace him." But this state of "sinesexuality," soon passed, as we might well expect. For Rotenhan himself was decidedly ardent in sexual tendencies; was not in any ethical worriments; was a cheerful young sensualist of refined nature. He showed himself more and more inclined to be—demonstrative. Poor Platen became panicky. What ought he to do? To fly the affectionate young Herman? "… Can I behave otherwise than I do?", he writes … "Would I find rest if I let myself go back to the road I began to travel upon?" He means, of course, the "road" with Schmidtlein. "Should I not do what I feel is right? I can truly do my part toward establishing a spiritual and chaste bond with Rotenhan; but certainly that does not seem to lie ahead. One thing is certain, that we are neither of us unsensual: though he likely has not yet experienced to what precipices such a situation leads one. Alas, I have found that out … I must ward myself from any moment of self-forgetting." Platen tried this heroic attitude the more conscientiously, if only halfheartedly. He even went so far as to talk (Jan. 10, 1819) with Rotenhan of the necessity of their 'parting.' But the affectionate Rotenhan would not allow this. As it happened, there soon were various ups and downs in their intimacy; some passing differences; and they really saw less of each other temporarily. But somehow, the grew ever tenderer; and the situation ever more "heroic" for Platen. He had not made any explicit confession of homosexuality to Rotenhan, nor had Rotenhan ( who was emphatically "so," but cheerfully untroubled by conscience's misgivings) said in so many words anything to Platen. But to Rotenhan, Platen wrote the little poem,—often in the minds of homosexuals when with some near friend—"Erforsche mein Geheimneiss nie." Platen's sense of his own faults of character and manner, his facility in errors of conduct with friends and the world, awakened much under association with Herman von Rotenhan. One may say that Rotenhan's love, and this special struggle, taught Platen a modesty not till now practised. He wondered why in the world Rotenhan ever could care so much for him—an uninteresting, moody creature, "neither rich nor attractive." But the moral struggle was over before Rotenhan had to leave Erlangen. On March 16-17, Platen remarks, in a sad anticipation of his friend's going, … "I tell him everything that is in my heart … To part from him is immeasureably sad, and the more because he has so much to forgive me., My heart bleeds, and my eyes are constantly brimming over." Then of their last nights together, he records:—"My soul demands love, I cannot be without it. Herman gives it to me. Last night I stayed late with him. We sat, or rather we Jay, embraced on the sofa, and I did not hide from him anything—how dear he was to me … I cannot damn this relationship; it seems to me a dispensation that has finally granted to me to find sympathy in another being, after I have so long yearned for it vainly. I did not come here with thoughts of love. I was torn to pieces in my very soul. So then let there come to us what is so innocent, especially for this short time left us …" The night of their parting was as long and passionate a vigil as might he expected. "We did not part, we slept in one bed.." Platen accompanied his friend as far as Bamberg; and there, with many kisses and embraces, they parted. Platen returned to Erlangen—"alas! I can no longer say "to our house." Within a few days, Platen went for his usual stay at Ansbach. He and the beloved Rotenhan seldom met after these Erlangen days. Their careers, and Platen's residence in Italy, kept them apart. Rotenhan died (high in juristic honours) at his family-castle in Bavaria, in 1858.
To this affair succeeded a considerable interval of strenuous study, especially as Platen now began Persian assiduously. Also came many "merely friendly" companionships and interests, with an ever increasing development of mind and talents, along with a routine and most wholesome college-life. Rotenhan abided much in Platen's mind; he yearned mightily for him; they wrote one another constantly. But in July, 1821, came a diversion; a quick, a passionate and (luckily) peculiarly happy new love-friendship that worked well toward 'Platen's whole social nature. This was with Otto von Bülow, an ancestor lineally of the distinguished German Chancellor of our own times. Otto von Bülow was an exceedingly handsome young collegian (also an ex-officer) who came for a short course at; Erlangen. Platen loved Bülow at sight, remarking in his Diary that "it was not possible to do anything else." "The first time I saw him," he writes on July 13, 1821, "his exterior made a decidedly favourable impression on me." Also Bülow was drawn to Platen almost at once. They became warmly-beloved friends; though never did two young natures differ more evidently. Otto von Bülow proved to be presently the direct inspiration of a large part of those beautiful imitations of Persian "Ghazel" poetry, which have become specially associated with the name of Platen in German verse. The series of these, called "The Glass of Hafiz," dedicated to Otto von Bülow, was published a few months after meeting him. Platen writes: "—I glow with longing to set before the world my love and respect for Bülow"—a somewhat dangerous wish for publicity, considering the lyric tenor. And not only the Ghazels, but several other poetical matters refer directly to Bülow, as both the published verses and the Journal attest. The pen-portraits of Bülow (minute and spirited) are charming, as we meet them in Platen's records of this kindly-starred intimacy. Billow was not only handsome is, but handsome does. He was sociable, lively, sincere, open-hearted, full of practical good sense, jolly yet never trivial or unmannerly, a deservedly general favourite at the University. He often took Platen to task, in a tactful way, as to the latter's errors of temperament and conduct, and did Platen much service as his mentor. The charm of the Bülow personality exhales through the pages of the Diary. We can understand how "everybody loved" the young fellow. One winning little episode occured on July 27, 1821. There came an excursion to the Streitberg, along with Fugger; and later, at night, a talk between Platen and Bülow; when after Bülow had warmly embraced Platen, Bülow referred gracefully to a jest between them during the day, and. added "—I dont believe you have made any mistake in me; though all the same—"I am what I am!" But the separation had to come, in September. Bülow must needs leave the University abruptly, because of military duty. Platen disconsolately accompanied Otto during some days of the journey, as far as Gottingen. They parted with many kisses and tears, expecting to meet soon again. But Bülow's plans anon were all altered. He could not return to study in Erlangen. They never dropped their affectionate friendship; and Bülow, along with almost all Platen's nearest friends (except Perglas and Gruber) long survived the poet's untimely and lonely end.
Just how far this intimacy with Bülow was "practically" homosexual is not clear. Not even so, in view of Platen's once declaring to us (after a certain night at the Streitberg) that he could praise God that he could admire Bülow's naked beauty of. body without "the least desire for it. mounting in me." There are contradictory passages to this calm mood. Platen begins, about this time, to be sexually reserved in his entries in the Diary. He does not analyze nor wrestle, as he did in recording his sentiments for Schmidtlein and Rotenhan. Besides, we cannot but suspect a sort of innocent insincerity, when he enters on this topic. Even after he was down, in Italy, troubled with small or no scruples of conscience as to homosexual love, he remained reticent as to the physical side of it—as we shall see.
Platen was now twenty-five years old. He had furnished his mind with a colossal, an encyclopaedic knowledge of philosophy, literature, aesthetics, languages, history, etc. etc. Already his verses and dramas were spoken of with great praise. But petty vanity never was among his weaknesses. There is no trace of this, first and last. Indeed Platen, like a great many other Uranians of genius, cared far more to be loved personally, than to be adr mired popularly for intellectual gifts. His happiness in success was in a great degree his pleasure that thus he was more an honour to his friends.
But now came a new emotional affair. In March 12, 1822, began the short but ardent intimacy between him and a student from Darmstadt named Justus Liebig, who afterward became the great chemist,—Liebig, whose name has passed into highest honour through his discoveries in laboratory-methods and preparations. Not only was young Liebig extremely good-looking. He was intellectual, cordial and refined enough to be at once drawn to Platen. More than this—there is no doubt that Liebig, in these young days of his life, was strongly uranian; certainly he was homosexual psychically, even if not wholly such physically in the Diary. The intimacy was swift. Says Platen "… He gave me the evidence of so decided and sudden a liking that I am really in a sort of astonishment about it. So much love has nobody shown for me; at least no one on such slight acquaintance." Then, quoting a line of Hafiz, he adds his conviction that in this strange life of ours just so much as two men come together, just so much as they try to disclose their innermost existences to one another, only the more riddlesome creatures do they become. A few days later m Nürnberg, he remarks that he and Liebig could indeed be glad that they had "found, understood, loved and will forever love each other. He never has seemed to me nobler, tenderer, and never handsomer than now—though he always is handsome. A slender figure, a cheerful gravity in his regular features, large brown eyes."—"What do we not say, what do we not hope?" Liebig's fineness of sexual morality charmed Platen, though "we have no shyness as to kisses." … do not hold ourselves at all back, and Liebig himself was the first to say that we must not show to the false and evil-seeking eye of the world that inner feeling which we do not reserve when we are alone." But under Platen's unfortunate star of interruption the' time that these two had together was brief. They had not met till Liebig was about to leave Erlangen for good. Liebig was much a dionian-uranian. He had become involved while at Erlangen, in a serious scrape with a married woman there, which affair he had not disclosed to Platen. Coming to learn of it now was no small surprise and disgust to Platen, though he soon got over it wholly. Liebig went to Paris to study. Platen had (more than once) a plan of joining him in Paris; partly to be with him, partly because of Oriental literature accessible in Paris. But the projects came to nothing. In course of the summer, Platen visited Liebig's city of Darmstadt; a visit that chanced to be most unlucky and disturbed, owing to Liebig's being under military "house-arrest" because of the affair just mentioned. This Darmstadt meeting turned out to be their last. They corresponded regularly and much, and Liebig's letters we know were glowing with homosexual love, jealousy, yearning for Platen and so on, to an ample degree; not to speak of Platen's missives. To the last, the bodily beauty of Justus Liebig haunted Platen. Liebig ever held a distinct post in Platen's roomy heart. Late in the Diary, we find Platen even speaking of Liebig as "the only being who ever has really loved me." The relations between Platen and Justus Liebig have formed the topic of an interesting volume (including correspondence) lately printed. It is strange to think of the eminent scientist Liebig as once upon a time so ardent a young similisexual.
We now reach the last, except one, of what we may term the series of the grandes passions of Platten: that is to say of what we find recorded as such by himself, and distinctively. The first is his wild, short, unhappy love for another young student at Erlangen, whom he names in the Journal as only "Cardenio," mentions in the poems addressed to him as only "Cardenio"; but who is identified with probabilty as a youth named Hoffman. "Cardenio" was, like Eduard Schmidtlein, a law-student. His beauty—merely this, for "Cardenio" was neither intellectual, interesting nor really friendly to Platen—terribly upset poor Platen for about four months. The affair has a considerable share in his verse and Diary. Of course, hero came in Platen's tendency to idealize a person whom he did not know, during a good while; and never (we are certain) would have found psychically companionable. Platen has immortalized "Cardenio" in the deeply-passionate "Epistles to Cardenio," and in the set of sonnets addressed to him, in which love, despair, hope, yearning and adoration are mingled, to all degrees. "Cardenio" first comes upon Platen's scene—for us—on November 22, 1822; Platen quotes in the entry a certain lino of poetry from the Persian Chakani, in which the old poet exclaims—"And is it really needful that I should know the name of everyone who steals my heart?" Then Platen says—"How I first came to know Cardenio has been already partially told"—though no such earlier reference appears in the Diary. It may have been torn out by Platen. Then comes a long description of the beauty of this "Cardenio," and more Persian quotations—sexual in key. Throughout the "Cardenio" affair, there come many references to Hafiz, At this time Platen was absorbed with the reading and study of that highly pederastic Persian poet.
We may note that as "Cardenio" was a mere boy, this particular love-sentiment, acutely physical, on Platen's side was eminently pederastic, like the Persian's tendency. In fact this sort of sentiment, from now on, especially when Platen was in Italy, took a clear place in his nature, as not earlier. After a considerable term of suspense, of idealizing and so on, Platen met "Cardenio." He tried hard to achieve a friendship with the beautiful boy. We can see that it was,a foolish attempt, ab initio. Platen was twenty-six, highly intellectual, an aristocrat in social position, an idealist; "Cardenio" was a preoccupied, boyish, untemperamental, and commonplace young collegian, dull-hearted and not too-clever. Max von Gruber once writes to Platen that "Cardenio" seemed to him (Gruber) "the most arid nature that I have ever met." "Cardenio" never was drawn to Platen; was unable to appreciate such a type. He did not respond to Platen's overtures. This coldness of course set poor Platen into a miserable state of mind. Platen would have spared himself infinite distress (and the upsetting of a whole winter's plans of study) if he had never tried to cultivate that fair-faced, slender young Erlangen "student-jurist." But alack! Platen says truly of himself, as of all men and women—"I must love where I must!" So mounted a desire that blazed and smouldered alternately, week in and week out.
Before Platen had achieved "Cardenio's" acquaintance, came the end of the University-term. "Cardenio" went away. Platen, after many hesitations, decided on a most foolish step. He had planned to pass several months studying in Vienna. This mood was over. He determined instead to go and "to live alone," for those months, in the cold, dull little town of Altdorf (near Nürnberg) and there to study Greek, Persian, and so on. He went to Altdorf. The plan was a perfect failure. He was haunted by "Cardenio"; he was not well; he could not endure his miserable lodgings in such a primitive place in the winter. He realized what a folly he had undertaken, as soon as he entered on it. Worse still, inasmuch as he was not at all sure whether "Cardenio" purposed to return to Erlangen,certain for a moment whether, even if he should now give up this Altdorf exile and go back to the University, he would find there (when the terms were to be resumed) the still "unknown god" of his heart.
After obstinate weeks of solitary brooding and half-study, under winter-conditions, Platen surrendered. He returned to Erlangen. "Cardenio," the real cause of all his plight and disquiet, turned out to be there once more, for a final term. But all went amiss as to any intimacy with "Cardenio;" who now—as before—neither cared for Platen's acquaintance nor liking. They became nominally friends, but only on the surfaces of life. Platen grew fairly hysterical with love and a fierce sexual longing. In the Diary, the first of the two "Epistles to Cardenio" in verse (published in the Poems) show what a tense, agonizing, hopeless love it was:—
"—In Sturm und liegen wandl' ich oft bei Nacht,
Zu kühlen was den Busen mir entfacht.
Vor Deinem Fenster geh' ich spät vorbei,
Ob wohl das Licht noch nicht verglommen sei.
Oft seh' ich dann dein schönes Haupt erhellt,
Als schwömm' in Strahlen eine ganze Welt;
Doch trittst Du wieder einen Schritt zurück,
Verlier' ich dies secundenlange Glück!
Und sie betaun mit Zähren für und für!
Räum' einen Platz mir dorten gütig ein!—
Geh' ab und zu,—ich will die Schwelle sein!
Verfahre strenger mit mir jeden Tag,
Von schöner Hand erduld ich Schimpf und Schlag,
Dies einzige, nur dies, ertrag' ich nicht—
Mich nie zu nahen Deinem Angesicht!
The Sonnets are in the same boundlessly "passional" tone,—and yet more so!
We can repeat it—this passion of Platen was decidedly a pederastic sentiment, and one may suspect that his Persian readings had some share in its awakening. His health, his studies, his friendships, everything gave place to it for the time. But at last, Platen realized two important things: first that this was a case where "the glory was all in the worshipper;" and, second, that there was no hope of any intimacy. Hie mastered the emotion, in part, and in part he grew cold toward "Cardenio." They drifted apart. Platen last saw his Ganymede, by a queer coincidence, when "Cardenio" was sitting one day in August, 1824, with Eduard Schmidtlein—in another locality. But Platen's ardent emotions for both were no more!
Of Platen's acquaintance with another Erlangen, student, Peter Ulrich Kernell, a young Swede, who died suddenly, and almost, in Platen's arms, in April 1824, of another intimacy with the seductive Baron von Egloffstein; with von Stachelhausen; with the young theologian named Renner; with Reuter, Engelhardt, Hermann, and others—concerning which series we find many entries more or less homosexual and interesting—we may say that all of them belong rather to the unimportant category in our study. Some of them were indeed "merely friendships," however nearly was crossed this boundary. Besides, during the year 1824, Platen changed more and.more, for awhile at least, in his temperament; and for the better. He threw off further his introspection, self-consciousness, worriments of soul. He grew sociable, lively and even popular. His literary repute advanced. He determined on a career in letters. He also travelled much.
Nevertheless there came, before he left off study at Erlangen, what we may regard as the final articulate and recorded homosexual love. What is more, it was one that (like the Cardenio" passion) has a significant place in Platen's poetry. Among the distinctively, intensively homosexual Sonnets will be found a set of not less than twenty-six,"To Karl Theodore German." The youth who inspired these is vague to us, except that he was a fellow-student, and that he came on the scene of Platen's homosexual experiences about a year later than "Cardenio;" after Platen had been travelling down in Italy and had made other considerable absences from Erlangen. (Platen often returned thither for study, during a few years.) This "Karl Theodore German" matter came after several other passions had flitted over Platen's, beauty-susceptible soul; including a flame for Reichenberger, and for a theological student named Knobel. We may note that Knobel, after beginning a most promising acquaintance with Platen suddenly and insultingly—though privately—declined to continue it; on grounds that plainly shew that in Erlangen there had been gossip about Platen's sex-nature.
Karl Theodore German, made Platen-pathetically miserable. There was no intimacy, no liking on German's side. The sonnets in question are fiercely—agonizingly—expressive of a love wholly ill-placed. But this passion, fortunately, proved to be relatively short. It was the old tale of Platen's curse—idealizing; of his being in a mood to seek a love where no basis could be maintained for friendship. The Karl Theodore German entries begin just when Platen was in a most melancholy humor, despite his recent literary successes; in the year 1826. They end in August, and German's name then lapses, for good and all. The two young men exchanged visits only once. We conclude that German was a mere lad. Platen presently was "healed of his grievous wound." But all the same, there are the sonnets "To Karl Theodore German," as the evidence of what he suffered. He writes also once in the Diary that—"Only Mercy (d'Argenteau) and Brandenstein can I put into the same category with him, I have loved these three above all others, and it is remarkable that all three have been blonds, with a distinct likeness of features." The psychologist smiles at Platen's use of the word "remarkable," in such ignorance of the tendency of homosexual (as of the heterosexual) love to particular physical "types."
The settled University life of Platen, and his unrecognition as a gifted dramatist and poet passed together. His profession and his fame in it appeared matters of no further doubt to him. The references in the poems themselves now and then frankly hint at this. In one of them he speaks of those who declare that there hangs already "the shadow of a laurel-wreath across his young brow." In the summer of 1824, came his first Italian tour. With this event, just at the very point where we would most naturally expect his homosexualism to speak out, when down in Italy (as later, after this first visit) his strange reserve deepens. His Diary is mute as to almost all his uranian heart-life. We may be sure that southern loves developed at once; and that no moral stresses against the sexual privileges of Italy were a check on them. We have certain discreet allusions, to such love-affairs, with beautiful young Italians. He. met also down in Italy, many young Teutons and other visitors, who were homosexual, with whom Platen foregathered philarrenically. But the reticence of the Journal, generally speaking, is surprising. He seldom makes the acquaintance of a young man without mentioning that the "beauty" of the new friend had been the first attraction, a sine qua non. In fact, all sorts of adventures and psycho-sexual intimacies and adventures, of a greater or lesser passional sort, surely came when he was wandering and living in the land of free, humane, æsthetic man-to-man sexualism. Some of these adventures have had their memoranda in his poems. For instance, there was the unnamed young Venetian who inspired him so warmly, during his stay in the Sea-City; alluded to in the "Venetian Sonnets" numbered 48 and 51 and in the last allusion of number 43. When Platen was passing through Parma, in course of September, 1826, came the little affair with one "Luigi," a handsome soldier, who, beyond any doubt, brought to Platen a happy—and physical—love-adventure, of some days. In Florence, occurred a short, mysterious episode—a single night—of like bonne fortune. In Rome, he became intimate with Cochetti, a handsome member of the Papal Guard; also with a certain young German named Fries (a Berlin painter and "very good-looking") also a beautiful Roman named Ranieri; also with a Spanish artist named Lepri; and with the two Roberti brothers. These acquaintances in Italy, each in their several degrees, were tinged with sexual relationships or psychic ardours. On the occasion of two separate visits to the Church of St. Peter in Montorio, at a year's interval (see the entry for Dec. 30, 1827) we hear of his meeting and falling in love with two young Italian lads. One of them was named "Innocenzo;" the other is not named. One of them is the subject of the exquisite Ode beginning "Warm and hell, dämmert in Rom die Winternacht." Another long entry, Jan. 11, 1828 is highly expressive, the more because of its vagueness. Again, on Feb. 28, 1828 (in Rome) he records becoming acquainted with a young officer who "is the embodiment of all that I could ever see in the way of beauty"; to whom may, with some probability, be set down the origin of the "Ode 18." The person to whom is directed the passionate and jealous "Serenade" we cannot identify clearly. When down in Naples, presently, Platen achieved the interest and friendship, and unmistakeably the sexual intimacy, of a handsome young countryman, August Kopisch, a painter, living in Italy; and who, by the by, discovered or rediscovered for us the "Blue Grotto" at Capri. To him Platen addressed some verses to be found in the poems published. Kopisch was notably handsome, a charming fellow, and a good friend to Platen, first and last; though—thanks to Platen's own ineptness—their intimacy did not always run on glass, by any means. In the beginning of Platen's passion for Kopisch, we are amused to find him one night so sexually excited that he could not rest; and that instead of resorting to the monastic scourge, or to prayer he—takes a moonlighted bath in the waters of the Bay of Naples! The bond with Kopisch survived all stresses. Platen grew to account it among his happiest ties, during the short remnant of life that was left to him for ties of any kind. It seems to have been the last "love-friendship" of great inner hold over him, which he was to enjoy.
Our sense of a striking reserve of Platen's uranian confidences in the Journal constantly increases as the huge record draws to a close. Platen's residence in Italy became an unadmitted fact. He was now famous in his German Northland. But he hated its social atmosphere. Only for business, or to meet a few friends, or to visit his beloved mother (settled in Munich—a widow) had he ever inclination now to return to Germany. He found in Italy (as have found there generations of like exiles) a people who have long possessed, who ever will possess, more true, human, conceptions—nay, let us say more divine impulses and theories—as to life and love than any Protestant Teutonia or Anglia can understand or tolerate. He had found in Italy, as have found there so many other expatriates, his intellectual and sexual home. Silences as to his homosexualism and its adventures (apart from his reticence because the Diary would pass into other hands) became a process partly of sheer discretion, partly of his abandonment of "moral" struggles, partly because of the physical subsidence of his sexualism. The latter reason is important; for Platen's general health became gradually far from satisfactory. A chronic, malady of digestive sort beset him, and there is every evidence that his vita sexualis was prematurely weakened. He became more idealistic than realistic—again. He speaks in the last months of the Diary of feeling glad that the unwelcome glow of physical passion had given place to a gentle admiration of male beauty. He could wonder at it without—desire. Instead of recording loves, we find him writing page after page of the veriest "guide-book" memoranda, as to pictures, churches, art, and so on. His heart sinks wholly below the surface of his entries. We cannot hear it beat.
It soon wholly ceased to pulsate with real joy of life, did so—by a melancholy irony—there in Italy, just where it might have bounded freest! He became hypochondriac, unempfindlich and restless. He talked of "settling-down" in Italy. He never did so. His commonplace social records are many, but they are not written in high spirits. He seems to have grown "sinesexual," toward the end. He felt himself solitary, now bound to live and to die so. The sun was paling for him. In Germany, some of his best old friends had gone—Gruber and Perglas among them. Still, only a few days before the final entry in the Journal, before his death from cholera, at Siracusa, he speaks of noticing in Caltagirone "a remarkably handsome young man." So the ruling emotion was at least alert, to the last; if in a mechanical, tranquil fashion.
Yes, to the last—as we have seen it from the first! For Platen remains forever the type of the born Uranian of literary genius, or at least of fine talent, who is drawn sexually only toward the male, but only toward the finer examples of the male, whether physically or intellectually; who idealizes in his loving, often to his own pain and disappointment; one who "loves where he must," a philarrene who is ever the victim of an inborn, sensual-sexual temperament. He is the type of the Intersexual that is of the intellectual class of our humanity. Such Uranians must be ever in peril of sad experiences, and of worse than sad. Such must thank "whatever gods there be" for any cups of refreshment that are vouchsafed their lips, often so parched; and must not expect to be too often so blessed. They must over and over yearn for unity, fated never to find their other half. In reading such a Diary, with the poetic and epistolary matters that supplement it, which Platen has left us, we realize that the lot of the son of Venus Urania is a hazard of sorrows, rather than joys; and in thinking of Platen asleep in his quiet grave in the Villa Landolini, at Siracusa, his bright career and his sad latter days alike abruptly ended, surely we may be glad that to all such weary homosexual hearts Death, sooner or later, gives an unbroken Repose.