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Wealth (Schnitzler)

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Title page of the first printing (1891)

Reichtum is an early story by Arthur Schnitzler, written in the summer of 1889. It appeared two years later in four parts of the literary magazine Moderne Rundschau, published in Vienna.

Print History

After Schnitzler submitted it, it was printed without consultation with the author, as he complains in a letter to Hugo von Hofmannsthal of 11 September 1891.[1] An authorized version with altered first three of the eight-chapter narrative appeared in the same year in the form of a separate print of the journal by Carl Steinhardt in Vienna. This edition can only be traced in public institutions in Schnitzler’s estate in the Cambridge University Library. Reinhard Urbach printed the first version in his Schnitzler commentary.[2]

Content

Count Spaun and Baron von Reutern allow themselves a carnival joke. The house painter Karl Weldein, a penniless drunkard and gambler, is put into an elegant society suit and seated next to the aristocratic players at the club. Weldein, who once wanted to be a painter, has a run of luck and wins a fortune at the gambling table. The suddenly filthy rich painter buries his fortune under a bridge next to the river, gets drunk and the next morning can’t remember where he hid it. He tearfully pities his poor little son and his sickly wife, who as a seamstress contributes significantly to the upkeep of the small family.

The painter only remembers the hiding place after twenty years on his deathbed. The wife has long since died. The son Franz, by now a painter – more talented than his father – digs up the treasure and gains access to that club through Count Spaun. Franz had assured the count that he would only be able to immortalize this gambling den in his next work of art after he had internalized the essence of this game of chance through trial and error.

Franz gambles away his inherited money down to the last penny and also loses his mind. He digs under the bridge again, mistaking pebbles for gold pieces. Count Spaun simply cannot believe it. In his madness, Franz has become his own father, pitying his wife, the seamstress and his little son Franz, that is, himself.

Reception

  • Hofmannsthal said in 1922 on the occasion of Schnitzler’s 60th birthday: “It is an astonishing thought that the little scenes from the life of an invented character ‘Anatol’, now familiar to all the world in Europe and beyond, and a short narrative ‘Reichtum’, perfectly mature and masterly in its way, were the first things with which he emerged so many years ago.” (Prose IV, Frankfurt 1955, pp. 99-100)
  • Scheffel points out the fairy-tale ending, which is about Franz’s self-pity: the son becomes his own father in an almost miraculous way.[3] Everything repeats itself in life. Father and son both fail in this strangely circular construction. The father cannot remember the hiding place for twenty years and the son cannot create the intended work of art.[4] Moreover, on the one hand, the chosen social setting is typical of naturalistic storytelling: The story ends where it begins – in misery, and the father, a simple craftsman, bequeaths his infirmities (addiction to drinking and gambling), as well as his talent for painting, to the son.[5] Schnitzler, on the other hand, during the above-mentioned revision, had kept to Hermann Bahr’s Zur Kritik der Moderne[6] of 1890, thus wanting to overcome naturalism when depicting Weldein’s inner life.[7]

Expenditure

  • First printed: Moderne Rundschau, vol. 3, issue 11 of 1 September 1891, pp. 385-391 vol. 3, issue 12 of 15 September 1891, pp. 417-423 vol. 4, issue 1 of 1 October 1891, pp. 1-7 vol. 4, issue 2 of 15 October 1891, pp. 34-40.
  • First edition in the year of the first printing: Arthur Schnitzler: Reichtum. Separate print of the Modern Review. Edited by J. Joachim and E. M. Kafka. Printed by Carl Steinhardt & Cie (responsible manager Gustav Röttig), Vienna IX, Hahngasse 12 (23 pages)
    • Three copies traceable: 1) Arthur Schnitzler’s estate, Cambridge, 2) Library of Hugo von Hofmannsthal[8] 3) Private property

Online

  • First edition (from private collection): archive.org
  • The text

Literature

  • Michael Scheffel: Arthur Schnitzler. Erzählungen und Romane. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-503-15585-9, p. 27-35
  • Reinhard Urbach: Schnitzler-Kommentar zu den erzählenden Schriften und dramatischen Werke. Winkler, Munich 1974, ISBN 3-538-07017-2; oeaw.ac.at (PDF)

Individual references

  1. Arthur Schnitzler to Hugo von Hofmannsthal, 11 September 1891. In: Arthur Schnitzler: Briefwechsel mit Autorinnen und Autoren. Digital Edition. Ed. Martin Anton Müller and Gerd Hermann Susen, https://schnitzler-briefe.acdh.oeaw.ac.at/pages/show.html?document=1891-09-11_01.xml (query 2020-9-22)
  2. Reinhard Urbach: Schnitzler-Kommentar zu den erzählenden Schriften und dramatischen Werke. Winkler, Munich 1974, ISBN 3-538-07017-2, pp. 83-93; oeaw.ac.at (PDF).
  3. Scheffel, p. 30, 8. z.v.o.
  4. Scheffel, p. 34, 19. z.v.u.
  5. Scheffel, p. 29, 17. c.v.o.
  6. Hermann Bahr: On the Critique of Modernity. archive.org
  7. Scheffel, p. 31, below
  8. Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Library. In: Ellen Ritter †, Dalia Bukauskaité and Konrad Heumann (eds.): Sämtliche Werke. Vol. XL. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2011, ISBN 978-3-10-731541-3, p. 605.