Berlin: The City and the Court

Jules Laforgue

Introduction by William Jay Smith

Jules Laforgue, “the French Keats,” came to Berlin in 1881 to serve as the “twice-a-day” French reader to the Empress Augusta, a descendent of Catherine the Great of Russia.

The Empress is Protestant, of course, but there has been a great Catholic influence in her life. Catholicism, in its political and social spirit, as well as in its moral code, particularities of form, and resources for the soul, has constantly been, alas, her almost Platonic preoccupation. It has also something of the aspect of forbidden fruit. It is said that were she a widow, the Sovereign would go live in Rome and very probably would be converted there. Four years ago, when Germany was celebrating the fourth centenary of Luther and the whole court was officially in Berlin, the Empress remained quietly ensconced in her castle at Coblenz.

  • “A delightful discovery.” —Alfred Kazin