Malwida von Meysenbug

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Malwida von Meysenbug
portrait by Franz von Lenbach
Born(1816-10-28)28 October 1816
Kassel, Hesse, Germany
Died23 April 1903(1903-04-23) (aged 86)
Rome, Italy
Known forMemories of an Idealist
ParentCarl Rivalier (father)

Malwida von Meysenbug (28 October 1816 — 23 April 1903) was a German writer, her work including Memories of an Idealist, the first volume of which she published anonymously in 1869. As well, she was a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Wagner, and met the French writer Romain Rolland in Rome in 1890.

Von Meysenbug was born at Kassel, Hesse. Her father Carl Rivalier descended from a family of French Huguenots, and received the title of Baron of Meysenbug from William I of Hesse-Kassel. The ninth of ten children, she broke with her family because of her political convictions. Two of her brothers made brilliant careers, one as a minister of state in Austria, and the other as Minister of the Karlsruhe. von Meysenbug, however, refused to appeal to her family and lived first by joining a free community in Hamburg, and then by immigrating in 1852 to England where she lived by teaching and translating works. There, she met the republicans Ledru-Rollin, Louis Blanc, and Gottfried Kinkel, all political refugees; the young Carl Schurz also became acquainted with her there.

In 1862 von Meysenbug went to Italy with Olga Herzen, the daughter of Alexander Herzen, known as the "father of Russian socialism" (and whose daughters she taught) and resided there. Olga Herzen married Gabriel Monod in 1873 and established herself in France, but Malwida's poor health obstructed her from joining her.

Von Meysenbug introduced Nietzsche to several of his friends, including Helene von Druskowitz. She invited Paul Rée and Nietzsche to Sorrento, a town which overlooks the bay of Naples, in the autumn of 1876.[1] There, Rée wrote The Origins of Moral Sensations, and Nietzsche began Human, All Too Human.[2]

In 1890, the late nineteenth century English novelist George Gissing wrote in his diary that he was 're-reading Memoiren einer Idealisten'.[3] In 1901 von Meysenbug was the first woman ever to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature after having been nominated by the French historian Gabriel Monod.[4]

Malwida von Meysenbug died in Rome in 1903 and is buried in the Protestant Cemetery in the city.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Human, All Too Human, Penguin Classics, p.x ISBN 978-0-14-044617-3
  2. ^ Marion Faber, Human All Too Human, Penguin Classics, Introduction p.x
  3. ^ Coustillas, Pierre ed. London and the Life of Literature in Late Victorian England: the Diary of George Gissing, Novelist. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1978, p.210.
  4. ^ Asaid, Alan. "Så ratade Akademien kvinnorna".

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