New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1931. 1st US Edition. Large octavo, publisher's blue cloth, original printed dust jacket, folded annotated galley sheet laid in.
First US edition of French man of letters Rolland's double-portrait of the two titans of German Romanticism, Goethe and Beethoven. The poet and composer were near-contemporaries (Goethe was 21 years older, and lived five years longer than Beethoven), and great admirers of one another's work, but only met briefly, if intensely, when their sojourns in the Bohemian spa town Teplitz coincided. They spent the better part of a week together, communing as they strolled the surroundings forests, and even making plans at the younger man's behest to collaborate on an opera (Beethoven had already written several lieder based on Goethe's verses, and written incidental music for the drama Egmont). Those dreams went unrealized, however, as the two parted ways after a week, never to meet again; it's speculated that Beethoven's dyspeptic manner ultimately left a bad impression on the urbane writer, very much the larger cultural figure at the time. The two shared a friend in writer and period-muse Bettina von Arnim, who engineered the meeting, and upon whose newly discovered papers the research for this volume is partly based. "They are but few, even among the men of genius, whose souls commune unceasingly with the Spirit of the Earth, the Erdgeist. Goethe and Beethoven were two of the chosen of the Great Mother. But the one, who was deaf, hearkened without understanding to the call from the depths, while the other beheld all, but heard part only." Rolland, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1915, was a prolific novelist and playwright, highly regarded internationally as a pacifist and for his forays into Eastern philosophy and mysticism. Illustrated with 33 sepia plates of drawings and reproductions, with numerous in-text line drawings; with endnotes. Translated from the French by G.A. Pfister and E.S. Kemp. (Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, given Rolland's political orientation, translator Pfister was a member of Oswald Mosley's British Union Fascists party.) Originally published in Switzerland in 1928. Laid in is a folded galley sheet representing six pages in the published book (pp.103-109) extensively annotated in colored pencils by proofreaders. Moderate toning to cloth; unclipped dust jacket with some chipping to spine-ends and flap folds, and sunning to spine and edges. Overall a very good copy of a book scarce in dust jacket. Item #1821