ID: 01/02/02/POST-1650 MS 0662
Primary Creator: Rilke, Rainer Maria (1875-1926)
Extent: 112.0 Items
Arrangement: The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.
Date Acquired: 02/01/1950
Subjects: Art, European - 20th century, Authors - Political and social views, Authors - Travel, Rilke, Clara, Rilke, Rainer Maria - 1875-1926 - Finance, Personal, Rodin, Auguste - 1840-1917, World War, 1914-1918
Forms of Material: Rilke, Rainer Maria - 1875-1926 - Correspondence
This collection contains 108 letters and postcards, as well as 4 undated fragments, that Rainer Maria Rilke sent to his friends Karl and Elisabeth von der Heydt between 1905 and 1921. Rilke discusses both art in general and the work of specific artists, including himself and his wife Clara, Karl von der Heydt, and French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Other topics include Rilke's financial matters, Rilke's and the von der Heydts' vacations and travel plans, Rilke's daughter Ruth, and the von der Heydts' daughters Gisela and Gerda-Dorothea. Rilke also writes about politics, especially in his later letters, and about his experiences in the military during World War I.
Link to catalog record: https://i-share-uiu.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01CARLI_UIU/gpjosq/alma99609140012205899
Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 - 29 December 1926) was a poet, novelist, short story writer, and translator. Born Rene Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke in Prague (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), he changed his name to Rainer Maria Rilke in 1897. Rilke left Prague for Munich in 1896, intending to study art and take advantage of the city's cultural and publishing opportunities. This move was the first of many journeys that took Rilke around Europe and to North Africa and Asia; many of the places he visited, including Italy, Russia, Sweden, and Paris, had a profound influence on his work.
Rilke married Clara Westhoff, a sculptor, in 1901; they had one child, Ruth. Rilke met Auguste Rodin in 1902 after traveling to Paris to write a book about the sculptor; he then worked as Rodin's secretary from September 1905 to May 1906. He met Countess Luise von Schwerin at a sanatorium near Dresden in 1905 and became acquainted with Karl von der Heydt when both men were guests at Schwerin's home near Giessen, Germany, on 19 August 1905.
Rilke was drafted into the Austrian army in December 1915. After a few weeks of basic training, the help of several powerful friends enabled his transfer to the War Archive. He died of leukemia in Switzerland on 29 December 1926.
Karl von der Heydt (31 July 1858-9 August 1922) was a private banker, contemporary art collector, and author. As a young man in Elberfeld, Germany (near present-day Wuppertal), he studied philosophy, and in 1881 he and his cousin, August von der Heydt, took over the family bank upon their grandfather's death. In 1883, von der Heydt married Elisabeth Wulfing. The couple had two daughters: Gisela and Gerda-Dorothea. The family moved to Berlin in 1891, and in 1895 von der Heydt founded his own bank.
In his free time von der Heydt engaged with the contemporary art scene; he read contemporary literature, collected contemporary sculpture and paintings, and wrote novels and plays, several of which were performed. The parties that Karl and Elisabeth held at their home often featured some kind of artistic element, such as a reading or a concert. Karl von der Heydt met Rainer Maria Rilke on 19 August 1905, when they were both guests of Countess Luise von Schwerin at her home near Giessen, Germany.
Prior to World War I, von der Heydt's bank prospered because of its connections to German colonies in East Africa; thus, the loss of these colonies following World War I threatened his livelihood. In 1918, he sold the family's Berlin villa, and the von der Heydts relocated to a home outside of Godesberg, Germany. Karl von der Heydt died of an illness in 1922; Elisabeth von der Heydt moved to a family home in Godesberg after his death.
"Rainer Maria Rilke." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 July 2015.
Schnack, Ingeborg, and Renate Scharffenberg. Rainer Maria Rilke: Die Briefe an Karl und Elisabeth von der Heydt 1905-1922. Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1986. Print.
Schoolfield, George C. "Rainer Maria Rilke." Austrian Fiction Writers, 1875-1913. Ed. James N. Hardin and Donald G. Daviau. Detroit: Gale, 1989. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 81. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 July 2015.
Access Restrictions: The collection is open for research.
This collection is the physical property of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Intellectual property rights, including copyright, may reside with the materials' creator(s) or their heirs.
The Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reproduction and publication policies are available here. The library welcomes requests for reproductions made from works in our collections, though restrictions may apply to certain materials. Please contact the library with any questions.
Related Materials: The Rare Book & Manuscript Library also houses the Gerhard Mayer Collection of Publications by or about Rainer Maria Rilke.
Rehder, Helmut. "Poet and Patron: Rilke and Karl von der Heydt." Symposium 6 (1952): 100-110.
Schnack, Ingeborg and Renate Scharffenberg. Rainer Maria Rilke: Die Briefe an Karl und Elisabeth von der Heydt 1905-1922. Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1986. Print.
Preferred Citation: Rainer Maria Rilke letters to Karl and Elisabeth von der Heydt, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
All of the letters are numbered sequentially (and in rough chronological order) in pencil in an unknown hand; they have been rearranged into chronological order.
Undated and partially dated letters are provided with estimated dates based on contextual information from other letters, known dates of holidays, and dates given in Schnack and Scharffenberg, Rainer Maria Rilke: Die Briefe an Karl und Elisabeth von der Heydt 1905-1922. Letters that could not be confidently dated are placed at the end of the collection.