Titu Maiorescu - Diary And Letters

Titu Maiorescu's diary is an unprecedented publishing event and, in its own way, unique in Romanian literature, by both the nature and value of the notes and by the length in time it covers – 62 years – and by the age of the author who had barely turned 15 when he started to make the notes, with surprising maturity. Obviously, we cannot say that, in the preceding years diaries haven't been written, but, except for Intimate Notes, unpublished yet at that time, they were of a totally different nature. They were travel writings, with notes on things seen, to which commentaries were added, such as we find in Dinicu Golescu, Alecsandri, Bolliac, Cipariu, Bariţiu, Asachi, Ion Codru-Drăguşanu and others, but most of them weren't even published. Apart from Dinicu Golescu, who had published The Notes in 1826, only Gheorghe Bariţiu had published a series of travel impressions in The Transylvanian Gazette (1845, 1850, 1852) or in Paper for Mind, Heart and Literature (1851, 1853), then Timotei Cipariu in The Transylvanian Gazette (1852) as well as August Treboniu Laurian in The Transylvanian Gazette (1855). From the very beginning, we find out, in Titu Maiorescu's notes, that the teenager was a reader of these periodicals, that, moreover, he even planned articles for them. Yet, I don't believe that it was from these writings that he got the impulse to start his diary. The main impulse was his own inner drive. As much as we can talk about an external stimulus, it could have come first of all from the German cultural environment in the middle of which he found himself at the age of 12 as a student at the Theresian Academy in Vienna. It is true that around the end of the 18th century and in the first half of the 19th century in the Occident but especially in Germany, diaries were a real fashion. The great writers preached a veritable cult for this type of writings. Typical, in this respect, Goethe insistently recommended to his underlings in Vienna and Jena to write down the facts of the day. He expresses this quite meaningfully in a discussion with chancellor Müller, from August, 23, 1847: "only a comprehensive everyday look on the things done and lived makes you realize your accomplishments and enjoy them, it leads you to consciousness." Goethe insists especially on writing down concrete data, but with the Romanticism there comes the tendency towards interiorization, towards rendering the states of mind, the philosophical and literary meditations. It is in this sense that Novalis, E.T.A. Hoffmann, August von Platen, Franz Grillparzer, Friedrich Hebbel, Gottfried Keller and others make their notes. It is not the case here to claim any influence of them on Titu Maiorescu. Whereas all these had started their notes in the period preceding Titu Maiorescu it is not less true that they were published long after he had started his notes. But they are typical for the general cultural atmosphere in which the youngster from Theresianum can be traced. If any connection is to be made between Maiorescu and some other author, this is doubtlessly Goethe. I assert from the beginning that no direct influence of the Olympian from Weimar on our author can be traced regarding the determination to start a diary, still, we cannot but notice some significant coincidences. Only small fragments of Goethe's diary were published before Maiorescu started his notes, namely by Goethe's well-known secretary, the philologist Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer, in the volume Mitteilungen űber Goethe (Informations about Goethe), in 1841. It is in fact a biography of Goethe on the basis of a rich documentation, known and unknown, the most important being the correspondence he quotes abundantly. Small quotes from his then unpublished diary are given only very rarely, interspersed in the text of the biography so that we cannot talk about the publishing of the diary proper. It is also worth mentioning that Adolf Scholl had published, in 1846, the volume Briefe und Aufsätze von Goethe aus den Jahren 1766 bis 1786. As the title points out it is not about fragments from the diary but about Letters and Articles by Goethe from 1766 till 1786. Nevertheless, this volume contains also a series of notes by Goethe from 1770-1771, entitled Ephemerides that, without having a date and therefore, without being a diary proper, encompass various notes on what he read, meditations, ideas, extracts, summaries, text transcriptions in various languages, spiced with comments on them. They are grouped in branches: linguistics, law, medicine, natural science, philosophy and theology, aesthetics etc. It contains a project of Faust. But I must mention that this note of Goethe is not a part of his diary: his real diary starts five years later, in 1775. The famous Weimar edition of his works, that started being published in 1887, the only one that contains also the complete edition of his diaries and which is respected by all the following editions, integrates it in section I, vol. 37, as a separate piece of writing (as we find it mentioned also in Goethe – Bibliographie) bearing the title Tagebücher (Diary). So, I underline that with Goethe Ephemerides does not figure as the title of his real diary. I cannot but show that the same word can be found in Maiorescu, but with him at the very front of his diary as a title, only that it is in the singular, Ephemeris, a Greek word that means diary, daily note. This introductive part is not made, with Maiorescu either, of daily notes, but of what the subtitle indicates: Früher Gesehene Theaterstücke, that is, Theatre Plays Seen Before. The teenager, starting his diary, wanted to review all the plays he saw beginning with 1847, that is, since he was 7, making also small comments on the performance. We cannot but notice a slight resemblance with Goethe. Could it be a simple coincidence? Still, I mention that while with Maiorescu there are 4 pages, with Goethe there are 35. On the other hand we cannot overlook the fact that the word "Ephemeris" was used to cover the notion of diary. Ever since the Antiquity it was used for notes on daily expenses and events. In the 4th century A.D., the neo-platonic philosopher Synesius of Cyrena advised his disciples to write daily notes, "ephemerides". The term, as many other Greek terms, became generalized in time, being borrowed in other languages as well. It became a real fashion starting with Goethe's times. So we should not deduce immediately that Maiorescu took the term from Goethe. It can also be mentioned that Maiorescu, in his diary, often makes remarks on the German poet, an author that will be for him, all his life, a model of the creative genius; but it must be shown that this does not appear in the beginning of the diary: only later will he approach him more closely. However we don't have any clue that he might have known Scholl's book. Let's not forget that he was only 15 and a half! If he had read it he would have certainly mentioned it, since he had already listed all the plays he had seen, and from the very beginning he notes with much scrupulousness the different books. Those who, as far as the diary is concerned, would like to demonstrate by all means the dependence of our author on Goethe, could invoke the fact that he writes down even the most minute things, among which the weather conditions, the temperature of the air etc., which Maiorescu does as well. But can this be the decisive proof? How many diary authors do not do the same thing? I think I can assert that our teenager went his own way. He himself will confess later the true origin of his diary to his good friend Richard Capellmann. After showing that he had isolated himself totally, studying secretly, for nights on end, literature, philosophy and German history, he continued: "During those weeks, in which I did nothing else, I had had the whole time to decipher from the chaotic web, the red thread of pure humanity and to follow it; that's why I started a diary, I intended to reflect incessantly, incessantly, and never let myself be annoyed, or angry – and to be as amiable and as friendly as possible with everyone." It should be noticed that later on too, when Goethe had already become familiar to him, there won't be a question of influence, of borrowing, but: "I found in Goethe, in the history of the development of his soul, some traits that coincided very much with mine, that were sometimes like pulled out of my soul […], that correspond totally to my way of interpreting things." (Diary, April 18, 1858). I cannot but conclude that, regarding the beginning of the diary, compared to Goethe, Maiorescu represents a typical case of parallelism and not of direct influence. Maiorescu's Diary being the first authentic diary in our literature and up to now one of the most important, it is not without consequence to try to find its place in autobiographic literature. It was much discussed whether the diary in itself is a literary genre or not. Obviously a conclusive answer cannot be given. The multitude of diaries transmitted and known presents such a great diversity that in the end their sole common trait is that they contain everyday notes with or without continuity. As for the rest, from the point of view of the contents, there were transmitted diaries ranging from very strict factual notations to texts rendering a great artistic exigency and deep spiritual significances. Trying a systematization of the domain two fundamental categories can be traced, generally speaking, according to the dominant reference point: diaries of external life and diaries of inner life. Applying terms taken from psychology, we can call them extrospective and introspective or, applying C. G. Jung's terms, extroverted and introverted. The former category signals things, facts, events of the objective world, whereas the latter category refers to subjective life. Obviously neither of them can be found in its pure form. As for the category of the diaries of the external world, they developed first of all in the form of travel writings starting with the Renaissance, when travels became more and more frequent. Towards the end of the 16th century Francis Bacon recommended the young English noblemen to write down during their voyages all that was worth remembering from what they saw. During the same period there is Montaigne, who, nevertheless, describing his voyages through Italy and Germany goes beyond the rough notes that characterized the diaries of the age, noting essential aspects from the lived experience, marking at the same time, through his wish towards stylization, the beginnings of the travel writings in their literary form. The second category of diary, the introspective one, has its origin more or less in the travel writings, when some author or another starts noting alongside with strictly objective facts his subjective reaction as well, together with small meditations and comments.Autobiographical literature will go through an expansion especially in the 18th century, when in the spiritual life of Europe there appears a decisive turn towards subjectivity, animated by the moralizing tendencies of the Enlightenment. It's the age of sentimentality with the tendency towards scrutinizing the inner life that will lead to the flourishing of the epistolary novel – starting with Richardson, Rousseau and Goethe – a genre so fit to interpret subjective life and close to the diaries and autobiographic literature. Typical for this age will be the so-called "Secret Diary" (Geheimes Tagebuch) by Johann Kaspar Lavater that, through the acute spiritual turmoil it presents, will greatly influence the contemporaries, starting with Herder and Goethe. In this way the great tradition of the diary appears to which the most productive impulse were Rousseau's Confessions. This kind of diary will flourish under his influence especially in France – where it was given the consecrated name – starting with Maine de Birau, Benjamin Constant, Alfred de Vigny and many others, in Switzerland with Henri-Frédéric Amiel, in Germany with Novalis, August von Platen, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Friedrich Hebbel, Gottfried Keller, in Austria with Franz Grillparzer. And how many more! The diary will now develop from simple notes to artistic craftsmanship. Goethe will give the typical example with his Voyage in Italy for the writing of which he used in fact the short notes from his daily diary, just as he will use the very same notes to write his famous autobiography Poetry and Truth. Obviously this kind of diaries are elaborated with the purpose of being published. With respect to this we'll later have the famous diary of the Goncourt brothers. I must add that in our century the diary will especially know a great upsurge towards artistic craftsmanship, so that in the form in which we find it with André Gide, Charles du Bos, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Max Frisch, Hans Carossa, Ernst Junger, Cesare Pavese and so many others it constituted a real literary genre. As a conclusion to this short sketch, I feel bound to emphasize the fact that the acceptation in which the notion of diary crystallized refers, above everything else, to inner life. Even when the first place is held by the events of the external life, they are noted as an experience of life and as such they pass through a personal filter, according to a way of seeing and speaking. Which are the traits of Titu Maiorescu's diary? Generally speaking, like many other diaries it contains both very minute facts and acute soul turmoils, alongside with social, historical and cultural events of utmost importance. Consequently it cannot be listed under a certain narrow category. At any rate, the true impulse of his diary was, as the dominant tone of his notes proves it, his own impulse and inner turmoil, the need to confess and to establish points of reference for self-knowledge and for the events and organization of his life. I mentioned the parallelism between him and Goethe, parallelism that he himself acknowledges in the note dated April 18th, 1858 that I quoted. It is true that many of his notes, in their style and content, confirm the accuracy of this confession, so that we can assert that similar reasons made Maiorescu as well as Goethe write down the facts and daily impressions. Let's remember what Goethe told chancellor Müller: this kind of notes lead to consciousness and to a feeling of joy regarding things done, as he also said at some other time that in this way he cultivated a sense of order he needed so much in his preoccupations. From the whole development of Goethe's life as from the spirit of his writings comes the fundamental aspiration to shape his personality through a discipline of his impulses and activities. I cannot but remark that the whole spirit of Titu Maiorescu's diary and letters show a fundamentally identical aim. The note of May 27th, 1856, which is in the very beginning of the diary, is relevant in this respect: "I began to win over myself in every respect." Regarding the same issue, he had made even from February 14th, 1856 the following note unveiling the very purpose of his diary: "I shall inscribe in this book from now on all my errors and all my good deeds over the day." Soon after, in May 29th, 1856 he will write among others: "I control myself in every way. I'll see to it that I become a strong and good man." And the following confession cannot but impress: "I avoided vulgarity in speech constantly and absolutely." (December 31st, 1856) It is not accidentally that a later note appears (April 26th, 1858): " It is only now that I have found in the German classics so many affinities with myself, so many kindred voices with mine, that they make me happier for some moments." Indeed, the German classicism starting with Goethe and Schiller was characterized by ethical humanism, preaching the mastering of natural impulses, subordinating them to the ideal of goodness, unlike the preceding phase of the German spiritual life called "Sturm und Drang" ("Storm and Stress") that asserted espoused humanism, recommending the unrestrained manifestation of natural impulses. Young Maiorescu, who was familiar with spiritual tumults, feels the need of a restraint that would lead him to a disciplined life. Titu MAIORESCU (1840-1917), literary critic, esthetician, professor of philosophy, magistrate, lawyer, prime minister (1912-1914), founder and mentor of Junimea literary circle – the hub of brilliant literary careers (Mihai Eminescu, Ion Creangă and many more) – was a forceful personality; a partisan of esthetic autonomy (the theory of "forms without contents"), he approached fundamental issues of Romanian culture, providing modern solutions. To him, the art of living is "reserve, discretion, moderation, in general negation, and in brief abnegation."

by Liviu Rusu