Monday, 17 November 2014

Mechtilde Lichnowsky - Germany

With many thanks to Penelope Monkhouse for supplying the following information:

Mechtilde Lichnowsky (1879 Schloss Schönburg – 1958 London) (née Mechtilde Gräfin von ind zu Arco-Zinneberg) came from a noble family and was a great-granddaughter of the Empress Maria Theresa. In 1904 she married the diplomat Karl Max Prince Lichnowsky, with whom she had three children. Between 1912 and 1914 Prince Lichnowsky was the German ambassador in London, where he tried in vain to reach a political settlement with the UK.

Mechthilde´s first works Götter, Könige und Tiere in Ägypten, 1914, Ein Spiel vom Tod, 1915, Gott betet, 1918, Der Kinderfreund, 1919, were  influenced by Expressionism. Her early literary contacts included the writers Carl Sternheim and Frank Wedekind, as well as the theatre producer Max Reinhardt and the publisher Kurt Wolff.  Mechthilde also corresponded for many years with the Viennese writer and editor of Die Fackel, Karl Kraus.

After her first husband’s death in 1928, Mechtilde moved to the south of France. She refused to join the official Writers´ Chamber and consequently her works were banned. In 1938 she married a British Major - Ralph Harding Peto - but on making a visit to Germany in 1939 she was interned and did not see her husband again - he died in September 1945.

During her house arrest, Mechtilde worked on her critical book "Worte über Wörter" in which she showed the barbarity of the NS-regime through the language it used. It could not be published at the time, but did appear in 1949. During 1946 Mechtilde moved to London, where she lived until her death. In 1954 she was awarded the literature prize of the City of Munich and became a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. Mechtilde died in June 1958 was buried in the cemetery at Brookwood in Surrey.

A.M. Emonts: Mechtilde Lichnowsky - Sprachlust und Sprachkritik. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2009.
M. Karl: Mechthild Lichnowsky: Die kluge Fürstin. In: Bayerische Amazonen – 12 Porträts. Pustet, Regensburg 2004, S. 50-65
A. Antoine: Mechtilde Lichnowsky. In: Britta Jürgs (ed..): Wie eine Nilbraut, die man in die Wellen wirft. Portraits expressionistischer Künstlerinnen und Schriftstellerinnen. AvivA, Berlin, 2002, pp. 230-249

Penelope Monkhouse (b.1952) is a German-British scientist living in Germany and is a granddaughter of the novelist, dramatist and literary critic Allan Monkhouse. Literature of the early 20th Century is one of her chief non-scientific interests; she is currently engaged on a comparative study of German and English poetry of this period. Penelope also writes poetry of her own and translates poetry to and from German and English. 

Photo:  Courtesy of View Images via Google Images:  Mechtilde and Karl in London