|The San Francisco call. , December 11, 1898, p. 23|
An article in The San Francisco call presented the book of Countess Larisch in december 1898
"HERE'S STORY THAT HAS EXCITED EUROPE'S ROYALTY.
Countess Larisch has at Last Published the First Volume regarding the Secerts of the House of Hapsburg and It Has Been Promptly Suppressed.
MARIE LARISCH'S novel, which has long threatened to appear and rattle the family skeletons of the Hapsburgs for the present generation, has been published at last and a great shout has gone up from the court society of Vienna. Not since the suicide of King Ludwig II of Bavaria has there been such sensation in Vienna.
Marie Larisch tells now for the first time the true history of the mad King, who was the patron of Richard Wagner, the recluse of the Castle of Starnberg, and who took his own miserable life after he had killed five of his suite in two years. Five years ago the Countess Larisch wrote this book and its publication at that time was prevented by the Emperor, who bought the copy right from the authoress at a fabulous price. Nothing more was heard of the Countess until a year ago, when she left one husband and five children to go and live with a Munich opera tenor by the name of Otto Brucks.
Countess Marie Larisch has had one of the most remarkable careers of living aristocrats. Her life has been a romance such as the most fanciful fiction-teller has never invented or dreamed of. Mme. Marie Brucks, she calls herself, and Mme. Marie Brucks she would be but for the indissolubility ot Roman Catholic marriages. As it is we must still call her Countess Larisch, and consider her the run away wife of one of the richest noble men of Austria, whose castle and estates in Silesia are among the best managed and most remunerative properties in the country.
Countess Larisch is forty years old exactly, and may truly be said to have seen something of the world in this span of life. The truth, indeed, was she had lent willing aid to the fatal love of her imperial cousin, the Crown Prince, for the Baroness Vetsera. She had sought and gained the friendship of Baroness Vetsera, the mother, who had for years been the mistress of Archduke William, the Grand Master of the Order of German Knights. She tempted young Baroness Mary often to her house, took her for drives and visits, went shopping with her, and managed so well that the Crown Prince continually met the pretty girl with whom he believed himself madly in love.
It must be supposed that the singer's income, added to the annuity from the book she never published, are insufficient for Countess Larisch's wants, and that she is trying for an addition to her income, either by a large sale of the book or by a second suppression of it. for which she would no doubt ask a high price of the regent of Bavaria, especially as the mad King, about whom she writes, still has a live brother—mad King Otto, who sits on the throne of Bavaria. She cannot expect any pecuniary help from her father, who only waited for his first wife's death to marry another actress, Antoine Barth, who is his present morganatic wife.
Countess Larisch's book, "A King's Fairy Tale." has already been prohibited for sale in Bavaria, where the poignant feelings excited by the tragic life and death of their beloved King Ludwig have scarcely yet been wholly appeased.
"A King's Fairy Tale," which she is telling, is the poetic history of King Louis II of Bavaria, the key to his mysterious solitary life and the true account of his tragic death. The book will be read with breathless interest, as it is known that the author, Countess Larisch, has learned much from her father about King Louis, and also from her aunt, Princess Sophie, who was the King's betrothed for several months.
The King of this tale does not seem a real man, but a youth from Swanland, who wished to live for a time on earth.
The first chapter reveals the King in his private observatory absorbed in astronomy. When his professor in astronomy retires the King goes to sleep and dreams a dream. He understands the language of the stars and hears the music of the spheres. He sees three brilliant castles on the shore of an emerald lake, over which sail singing swans. With them sails a mythical youth, a swan king, who announces his intention of descending upon earth, or, as the author expresses it, "the will to live on earth is awakened in him."
An angel warns him in vain that on earth kings have to suffer more than other mortals.
The swan king refuses to be warned; the angel has to consent to his earthly journey, but he comforts him by promising that a noble human maiden will reveal herself to him with a song. "A limit is fixed for your life," says the angel, "if you live it to the end; but if you leave the earth of your own free will, if you feel your powers failing, then you will return here and be a swan again."
In the second chapter the reader is in the full reign of King Louis II, the scene being the lake of Starnberg, not far from Munich. The reader is initiated into the intrigues played by the persons of the court of this King. Baron von Decken, the favorite and aide-de-camp of the King, is in conversation with a banker named Anthony, and both admit the necessity of getting the King to marry.
The reader learns that the courtiers' party intends marrying the King to Princess Clarisse, the daughter of ex Queen Honesta, who lives in Biarritz.
Suddenly an illigimate daughter of the banker appears — a passionate beauty of the Southern type — Wally von Sartory, who declares to her father that she loves the King and will not let them couple the sun-god Phoebus to an earthly princess. He loves art, and she will become an artist as a means of finding the way to his heart. Wally von Sartory is no definite character, but a type of the numerous young singers and actresses and artists who tried to gain the King's love in those days.
In chapter III the King is shown to the reader in the idyllic solitude of his castle on the shore of Starnberg Lake. The castle is Schloss Berg, the scene of the catastrophe in which the King ultimately lost his life.
Countess Larisch describes the handsome young King with a certain amount of enthusiasm — "tall and straight, like a noble pine, with indescribably beautiful dark blue fairy eye's, with curly brown hair framing an open brow, and a sad, sweet mouth on a classically cut face.
The author shows the King deeply interested in a conversation with Richard Wagner, whose name in the story is Reinhard Meister. The King is speaking with Wagner on the tradition of the Knight of the Swan, which the composer-poet used in his opera "Lohengrin." The King confesses that he is on the look out for a song — his own song, he calls it — which an angel sang to him in a dream. He must have the song, and he knows a woman will sing it to him some day.
The King tells the master a secret, that he never yet cared for a woman, saw no poetry in any other woman than his mother, and Wagner admits that poetical women are very rare. Wagner, however, returns the King's confidence, and says he has found such a woman — the wife of a friend. No doubt this is Cosima Bulow, whom Wagner later married.
In the evening of that selfsame day the King walked along the jessamine paths to the lake, listening to the nightingales in hopes of hearing his song. He rowed across the lake to the opposite shore and believed he heard the singing of the swans. It was a mistake. As he approached the shore he heard a melodious human voice. He could distinguish the words — it was the song of the wondrous flower — his song, which said the wondrous flower is the purest love.
"This is my song!" the King cried, jumped out of the boat, ran across the lawn to the castle, where a delicate woman's figure appeared at an open window. The moon was shining, and she recognized the man below and cried: "The King!"
He confirmed this and asked her to come down. The young lady immediately obeyed and appeared in the frame of a porch in the ivy-grown tower. The King, asking who she was, answered: "Your Majesty's cousin, Elsa!"
She is no other than Princess Sophie of Bavaria, the youngest sister of the late Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who lived in such complete retirement with her parents, so that the King had not seen her before she was seventeen or eighteen.
A few days later the King is resolved, takes an official trip to Castle Possenhofen, and asks his uncle for the hand of his youngest daughter, which he is promised with the greatest alacrity. Princess Elsa finds herself the "King's bride," and finds her chief delight in repeating this to herself. Countess Larisch describes a meeting of the King and his bride, the trysting place being the park around Possenhofen.Bride and bridegroom composed verses and each read the latest composition to the other. In the meantime the beautiful Wally yon Sartory was at work to attain her ends. She crosses the lake at night and watches the King and thePrincess in the park, and hears the song, which she soon learns. Countess Larisch gives her readers the text and the music of the wonderful song— but she does not mention either poet or composer, and only says Princess Elsa received it in some mysterious manner.
Wally yon Sartory gets herself made lady-in-waiting to Princess Elsa, and when she is alone with her she uses her hypnotic powers, sends the Princess to sleep and suggests to her that she must not love the King — she must not become the King's bride. The Princess suffers from these suggestions in her sleep, and she wakes up with a painful sensation. Still the suggestion has taken effect. She shows her lady-in waiting a blue Rilk watchguard on which she has embroidered a crowned silver swan.
The Princess worked it for the King, but now, obeying the suggestion, she does not care for it and gives it to her ady-in-waiting, who is treacherous enough to show it to the King as a present from the Princess, and then gives it to the King's aide-de-camp, Baron Decker, saying she was desired by the Princess to present him with it. One evening she arranges the candles on the piano at which the Princess is seated, while she sings the song to the King in such a manner that they topple over on the music and the only copy of the song is burned. The Princess cannot sing the song because her maid of honor has before this suggested in her sleep that she must for get the words and music of the song. In the confusion he discovers the watchguard on Baron Decker's waistcoat, and. accustomed as he was to being deceived, he immediately suspected his bride.
This is the beginning of the rupture which leads to the breaking off of the betrothal between the King and the Princess.
The King refuses to be informed of affairs of state. Like Frederick the Great, all he wishes is to "suffer and be silent." At last he resolves to retire to the solitude of the Swan Castle in the Bavarian Alps, where he built a splendid castle containing hundreds of works of art, all referring to the Myth of the Swan. This is "Neuschwanstein," the actual marvel of the Bavarian Alps. He suffered from insomnia and can never go to sleep without drugs. He dines at a table with room for thirteen guests, and at which thirteen chairs stand before thirteen covers. He has terrible visions and the word passes around that the King sees ghosts.
One day the King ordered his carrriage and drove to the court theater, whose performances he directed that he alone should attend. He had heard that a new actress has been appointed — Wally yon Sartory — who has become famous in the meantime. He does not recognize the singer. After the performance he sends for her to the conservatory, where she is to declaim portions of other poems. At last she has attained what she strived for so long. She speaks the part of Phaedra. She speaks with irresistible passion and impresses the King so deeply that he leaves his hiding place and walks up to
her. She is just speaking the love scene with Hyppolitus. Suddenly she falls on her knees before the King and gazes up into his eyes with the expression of maddening love. The King is speechless for an instant, then recovers from his surprise and putting her away cries out: "Go! Go!"
She makes one last attempt; she runs to the piano and sings the song of the wondrous flower. But the effect is not what she expects — the King stood motionless and cried: "Elsa!" ^
She then betrays to the King the whole intrigue against his love.
To escape from his thoughts the king runs into the park and seeks the shore. One shade will not leave him — the King tries to walk away from it and his feet touch the water. Then a fresh vision appears to him: he sees Elsa coming to meet him in the on the lake. He shakes the shade that clings to him with all his power and flings it from him, while he cries: "Leave me! I must cross the lake. I shall walk over the water. Elsaa, I am coming! Our Father, who art in heaven" — and as he said these words, he strode into the lake.
So ends this remarkable story — and so ended the life of the King of Bavaria."
The book was published in Germany under the name Ein Königsmärchen (Spohr, Leipzig,1898, 248 p.).
I didn't find any french translation of it.
I didnt find an english edition either...
...and the german edition is very difficult to find.