Freemasons and crusaders

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A. Blumauers vermischte Schriften. Neue Auflage. - [S.l.] 1808.

Austrian National Library, shelfmark: 309.701-A.Alt-Mag

Aloys Blumauer (1755-1798), employee of the court library and (from 1793 on) imperial book censor, was one of the foremost literary figures of Josephinian Vienna, extraordinarily productive as journalist, publisher and author. The rather thin volume of „Miscellaneous Writings“ contains only a small, but characteristic fraction of his vast output:

Masonic writings, an „Attempt of a History of the Knighthood of Old with Respect to Freemasonry” and his important article on Josephinian literature, „Observations on Austrian Enlightenment and Literature”. In it, he characterizes the flood of pamphlets immediately following on the extension of press freedom in 1781. While criticizing fabrications „ falling under the heading of waste paper”, published to make easy money, he emphasizes the importance of more substantial writings like Joseph Valentin Eybel’s „What is the Pope?” or the publications of the „Sermon Critics”. 

The last part of this small volume is taken up by the tragedy Erwine von Steinheim, first performed in 1780 at the German National Theatre (later: Imperial Court Theatre). Its plot is easily told: Erwine is committed to the memory of her husband Urach who is believed to have died in the crusade, but her father and brother force her to engage herself to the count of Henneberg. Then Urach returns, rejects his wife because of her presumed infidelity and insists on duelling with Henneberg. Henneberg wants to break off the engagement and seeks reconciliation, everyone involved asserts Erwine’s innocence, but all to no avail – Urach is killed in the duel and Erwine dies from broken heart. The story of the crusader’s concept of honour, fidelity and justice, all-destroying and unable to respond to love and friendship, impressed the audience of its time and was acclaimed by public and critics alike. Franz Xaver Karl Gewey's travesty of the play, Erwine von Steinheim parodirt in Knittelversen vom Verfasser der Modesitten, published more than 20 years later, testifies to the long-time popularity of Blumauer’s only tragedy.



last update 10/3/2013