FPG & E. v. Freytag-Loringhoven

Else & Greve arrested in Pittsburgh
September 17, 1910:
Else von Freytag-Loringhoven & Felix Paul Greve in the New York Times
(Illustration + Text)

[German version originally prepared by Gaby Divay
on occasion of the FrL Exhibition at the Literaturhaus in Berlin]

©March 2005

The Canadian author Frederick Philip Grove, in Manitoba since 1912 and formerly known as Felix Paul Greve, disappeared in 1909 from Berlin with a faked suicide. As Grove was to describe in great detail at the very beginning of his first autobiographical novel A Search for America in 1927, FPG had crossed the Atlantic in late July as a second class passenger on the White Star Liner Megantic from Liverpool to Montreal. The boat remained unnamed, the narrator's age was twenty-four rather than thirty, and the alleged year was 1892, or twenty years before Greve adopted his Canadian identity as Grove [Divay, Dec. 1998, publ. 2000].

Eleven months later, in June 1910, Greve's wife Else followed him to America. It is not clear if Greve had left her in Berlin as he later left her in Sparta, Kentucky. In an enigmatic letter to André Gide in June 1908, he alluded to "a gap" that would soon ensue, and announced that he was about to be divorced [see Grove, Letters, 1976]. Most likely, he fled hastily and without her knowledge for one particular compelling reason addressed below. Once settled in New York, he reconsidered and asked her to join him. However, Else may well have been privy to his plans to become a rich American "Potato King" from the very beginning. Whatever the case may be, Else waited some seven or eight weeks before she approached the director of Insel Publishers, Anton Kippenberg, with an impertinent note about her husband's disappearance in September 1909. In his elegant reply, Kippenberg counters one by one her accusations that he had over-worked, underpaid, and unfairly criticized her husband, and that he was therefore responsible for Greve's suicide. Kippenberg, who seems doubtful of Greve's demise, points out that FPG's heavy debts and "the fact that he has recently offered the same translation to two publishers at once, and has received payments from both" might be sufficient reason for seeking voluntary death [Grove, Letters, 1976].

If double-selling his work was perhaps not worth dying for, it certainly warranted the start of a new life elsewhere. Greve had already spent a year in prison for defrauding a rich friend in 1903/4, and he was obviously heading for the penitentiary again. As a repeat-offender, he would face a far stiffer fraud sentence than he had six years earlier. In his reply, Kippenberg goes on to excuse Else's "tone with the understandable upset you are suffering," and offers her financial support. An employee, who had come to pick up various manuscripts, including Dickens David Copperfield, found the alleged "widow" in gay summer dress and excellent spirits. The elated mood may well have had its roots in Else's knowledge THAT & WHERE her husband lived at the time: how long can one possibly stretch an "understandable" excuse for reactive, emotional outbursts? Greve had, after all, disappeared nearly two months earlier!

Else likely took Kippenberg's kind offer to help her, and may have gone collecting from Greve's other publishers by means of similar tactics, until she had the necessary funds for her passage from Rotterdam to New York, and from there to Pittsburgh. Not long ago, the only known facts were that the scandalous pair was reunited in Pittsburgh in mid-1910 [Spettigue, 1992], that they spent roughly one year on a small farm near Sparta, Kentucky [Divay, 1993], and that Greve left his wife there for good in late summer of 1911 [FrL's Ab]. He then tramped along the Ohio down as far as Louisville and went west all the way to "the Dakotas."

Else modelled at first in nearby Cincinnati, then she made her way to Philadelphia and New York, where she married Baron Leo, a black sheep of the illustrious Freytag-Loringhoven family, in November 1913. FPG, now Grove, married his fellow-teacher in Manitoba, Catherine Wiens, in August 1914. Since Gisi von Freytag-Loringhoven made the sensational discovery that Greve and Else were united in matrimony in August 1907, both partners became bigamists in North America. Else reverted to her maiden-name Ploetz, and although she was thirty-nine years old in 1913, she declared to be ten years younger to match the age of the groom. Grove, who was thirty-five in 1914, pretended to be a forty-year old widower from Moscow, Russia.

The recent discovery of a note in the New York Times of September 17, 1910, reveals with the head-line " She Wore Men's Clothes: On Walking Tour with Husband, Mrs. Greve Explains -- Police Let Couple Go " that the couple were briefly arrested in Pittsburgh:\
"Pittsburg [sic!], Mrs. Elsie Greve, recently of New York, but formerly of Berlin, was arrested in crowded Fifth Avenue this forenoon while walking by the side of her husband, F. P. Greve of New York, dressed in men's clothes and puffing a cigarette. Both Mrs. Greve and her husband were taken, protesting, to the central police station and locked up as suspicious persons. / Both Greve and his wife asserted that they were subjects of Germany, had done no wrong, and intended no wrong. If they were not released speedily, they would appeal to the German Ambassador at Washington to-morrow morning, they said. Whether this threat was considered or not is not known, but this evening it was announced at Police Headquarters that Mrs. Greve and her husband had been allowed to leave the police station and go on their way, and that Supt. of Police McQuaide issued a letter to the pair setting forth that Mrs. Greve and her husband were all right and that the woman was wearing men's clothes only because she could walk better and keep up with her husband, who was walking out his vacation."

Else had declared to immigration officials in New York on June 29, 1910, that she was on her way to meet her "brother-in-law T.R. Greve" in Pittsburgh [Spettigue, 1992]. The reported incident in late September proves that the couple were still in town some twelve weeks after Else's arrival. When they finally moved on towards Cincinnati and nearby Sparta, Kentucky, remains unknown. Like in the newspaper note, Greve was also listed with his real name "F. P. Greve" as "manager" of an undisclosed enterprise located at no. 524 on 4th Ave in a 1910 Pittsburgh directory. As home address, the hilly suburb of Carrick was mentioned. A few years after this finding, I could also ascertain what exactly Greve was doing in Pittsburgh at the time, but that is another story. The brief note about the scandalous pair in the New York Times fills yet another small hole in the lofty fabric of FPG's poorly documented three American years between August 1909 and September 1912.
Divay, Gaby. "Felix Paul Greve/Frederick Philip Grove's Passage to America : The Discovery of the Author's Arrival in North America and Its Implications," New Worlds: Discovering and Constructing the Unknown: Festschrift for Walter Pache, München: Verlag E. Vögel, 2000, 111-132.
Divay, Gaby. Introduction to Grove, Frederick Philip. Poems/Gedichte, Winnipeg: Wolf Verlag, 1993.
Freytag-Loringhoven, Else Baroness von. Autobiography. ts., 205 p. University of Maryland, College Park ( FrL's Ab).
Freytag-Loringhoven, Gisi Baronin von. Personal communication, April 2002.
Gisi's discovery is also acknowledged in:
Irene Gammel's comprehensive FrL biography, Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada, and Everyday Modernity: a Cultural Biography. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 2002.
Grove, Frederick Philip. The Letters of Frederick Philip Grove. Ed., D. Pacey. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976.
Grove, Frederick Philip. Poems/Gedichte, by F. P. Grove/F. P. Greve and Fanny Essler. Edited, with an introd. notes and a concordance, by Gaby Divay. Winnipeg: Wolf Verlag, 1993.
Spettigue, Douglas O. Introduction to Freytag-Loringhoven, Baroness Elsa, Ottawa: Oberon, 1992.

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