What follows is a timeline without any claim to novel information; it is not even the fruits of any original research. The aim has been but to provide a consolidated compendium of comprehensive, but non-exhaustive facts of Karl Kraus’s life between 28 April 1874 and 1 April 1899. The aim, that is, has been to provide—in my own words and translations—the fruits of others’ labors, which have hitherto been dispersed throughout various publications, all in one place and in an easily comprehensible format. It is my hope that further timelines covering later time periods will follow in the future near or far. But first a word on what follows.
The events in Kraus’s life which are set forth below appear in chronological order and are broken down by year and date. While the events themselves and the years in which they took place are, to the best of my knowledge and belief, established fact in Kraus studies, some of their dates are given as “unknown”—identified with an em dash (—) in the table below. This mark is meant only to suggest that I do not know and have hitherto been unable to identify them. It is not meant to suggest that the specific dates of the events are unknowable; I have placed them wherever they seem to make the most sense within the given year. Should anyone have any definite information regarding the dates of any “unknown” events below or should anyone identify—contrary to expectation and belief—any information as incorrect, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would be glad to hear from you.
|1874||28 Apr.||Karl Kraus is born to Jacob and Ernestine Kraus as the ninth of ten children. Kraus’s older siblings are, in chronological order, Emma (5 April 1860), Richard (November 1861), Louise (22 July 1863), Malwine (14 August 1865), Alfred (18 May 1867), Gustav (1869-1871), Joseph (1 February 1871), and Rudolf (3 October 1872).|
|1875||12 Dec.||Kraus’s sister Marie “Mizzi” is born as the last of ten children.|
|1877||—||The Kraus family moves to Vienna, near Stadtpark.|
|1880||—||Kraus begins elementary school at the Volksschule in Vienna.|
|1884||—||Kraus finishes elementary school.|
|autumn||Kraus begins his studies at the Franz-Joseph-Gymnasium.|
|1887||spring||Kraus calls at the home of Professor Heinrich Stephan Sedlmeyer, his professor at the Franz-Josef-Gymnasium, to request help with his “German style.” Sedlmeyer gives him a style book, albeit reluctantly. Sedlmeyer reports that he believed Kraus to be holding himself back more than anyone else.|
|1888||ca. Apr.||Hugo Bettauer reports that Kraus received “a magnificent-looking work for his fourteenth birthday. Some atrociously beautiful book with kitschy illustrations, bound in red with gilt edging” [my translation] (quoted in Aus großer Nähe 39). Kraus exchanges it “for something by Shakespeare” (ibid.). (You can read more here.)|
|various||Kraus performs in various theater productions at the Gymnasium.|
|1891||22 Aug.||Kraus participates in a charitable event in Baden bei Wien. Schick reports that Kraus performed a “humorous imitation intermezzo In der Burgtheaterkanzlei.”|
|24 Oct.||Kraus’ mother, Ernestine, dies suddenly; her death hits Kraus very hard. He begins to act out, and his grades begin to suffer.|
|1892||Apr.||Kraus’s first print publication appears: a book review of Gerhart Hauptmann’s Die Weber in the April edition of the Wiener Literatur-Zeitung.|
|—||Kraus meets the group Jung Wien, which includes Hermann Bahr, Arthur Schnitzler, Richard Beer-Hofmann, Felix Salten (of Bambi fame), and others.|
|spring||Kraus graduates from the Franz-Joseph-Gymnasium, but just barely because of his conduct, which had worsened considerably since his mother’s death—but on the same day as Hugo von Hofmannsthal; the two meet at Beethovenplatz to celebrate their “release.”|
Kraus publishes “Notizen” in Das Rendezvous, which contains an announcement of Maximilian Harden’s launch of his periodical Die Zukunft.
Maximilian Harden—the notorious “Apostata,” known for his critical work in Theofil Zolling’s Gegenwart—is founding a new periodical in Berlin, which shall be published by Stilke: Die Zukunft. Whoever knows Harden, and this number should not be few, shall know what to think of this new endeavor, which in its universality shall exceed all kindred journals. Such a periodical had to come about, and we gladly welcome its founding and wish Harden the best of luck. A shame, though, that everything great, modern, and epic in literature must ever come from Germany. In Austria, there is still nothing astir [my translation] (FS I 35).
|21 Oct.||Kraus holds his first public reading and sends the program to Detlev von Liliencron, whom Kraus admires. Kraus and Liliencron carry on friendly correspondence, and the two meet each other personally soon thereafter.|
|Dec.||Kraus matriculates at the University of Vienna to study law at the behest of his father. But he does not attend any seminars because he spends most of his time at Café Griensteidl.|
|1893||14 Jan.||Kraus plays Franz Moor in Rudolfsheimer’s production of Schiller’s The Robbers and is just horrible. He promises Arthur Schnitzler that he will never act again.|
|9 Feb.||In response to numerous inquiries—so runs the title of the brief article—Kraus announces an anthology of contemporary satire, which he never completes.|
Kraus dislikes the dishonesty he perceives as prevalent at Café Griensteidl. He writes a letter to Schnitzler:
I hated and hate this false, feigned “decadence,” ever self-indulgent; I fight and will always fight this posing, morbid, and masturbatory poesy! [my translation] (quoted in Schick 29).
|9 May||Kraus publishes “Zur Ueberwindung des Hermann Bahr” in Die Gesellschaft—an open attack on Hermann Bahr, which took even Bahr’s opponents such as Liliencron by surprise.|
|8 June||In a letter to Kraus, Liliencron counsels caution in matters relating to Hermann Bahr and advises that Kraus’s tone in his “Zur Ueberwindung des Hermann Bahr” was too harsh.|
|Aug.||Kraus gives a public reading of Gerhart Hauptmann’s Der Weber in Bad Ischl, which is received very well.|
|1894||Jan.||Kraus publishes four articles in the Berliner Neuteste Nachrichten.|
|Mar.||On the strength of his January articles, Harden invites Kraus to write for Die Zukunft. Kraus sends in a number of articles, but Harden doesn’t publish any of them; Kraus shows no hard feelings. He begins corresponding with Harden.|
|—||Kraus switches degree programs from law to German studies and philosophy. This switch is the cause of a conflict between Kraus and his father. Kraus temporarily moves in with Felix Salten.|
|—||Kraus befriends Peter Altenberg. Altenberg tells a rather humorous tale of how the two became friends: namely, that he won Kraus over by breaking out in song while the two were in Ebensee on route to Traunkirchen: song “Heini von Steyer,” lyrics by Keller, music by Engelsberg.|
|1895||—||Kraus endeavors to end the conflict with his father by implementing a kind of damage control policy.|
|ca. June||Kraus switches cafés from Café Griensteidl to Café Central.|
|12 June||Kraus publishes a review of Gröger’s Adhimukti in the Neue Freie Presse, where he lampoons Schnitzler, Beer-Hoffmann, and Hofmannsthal. They begin to distance themselves from Kraus.|
|6 Nov.||Schnitzler reports that he and the others—presumably all of Jung Wien—have fully disassociated themselves from Kraus.|
|1896||—||Kraus sends a package of Peter Altenberg’s writings to S. Fischer Verlag in Berlin—“behind my back,” as Altenberg tells it. S. Fischer publishes them in what becomes Altenberg’s first book: Wie ich es sehe.|
|15 Nov.||First installment of Kraus’s biting satire “Die demolierte Literatur” appears in the Wiener Rundschau.|
|1 Dec.||Second installment of “Die demolierte Literatur” appears in the Wiener Rundschau.|
|14 Dec.||Salten boxes Kraus’s ears in a coffeehouse because of Kraus’s attack on him in “Die demolierte Literatur.” Schnitzler reports that Salten’s attack was a welcome sight to all.|
|Dec.||Kraus sees Annie Kalmar perform in Maurice Donnay’s Die Verliebten. This is the first performance by Kalmar, which Kraus is documented as having attended.|
|1897||1 Jan.||Third and final installment of “Die demolierte Literatur” appears in the Wiener Rundschau.|
|25 Feb.||Salten is ordered by the court to pay 20 fl. for boxing Kraus’s ears.|
|Apr.||Kraus sees Kalmar in Gerhardt Hauptmann’s Der Biberpelz at the Deutsches Volkstheater.|
|5 Apr.||Kraus publishes his review of Gerhardt Hauptmann’s Der Biberpelz and claims: “The production of Der Biberpelz has rehabilitated the Deutsches Volkstheater for its years of non-literary output” [my translation] (FS II 42).|
|Apr.||Kraus sees Kalmar in Richard Nordmann’s Die Liebe at the Deutsches Volkstheater.|
Kraus publishes his review of Richard Nordmann’s Die Liebe where he juxtaposes Die Liebe with another play, which was also put on at the Deutsches Volkstheater, Roberto Bracco’s Pietro Caruso. Kraus writes:
The performance had surely done its part in contributing to the flop [the production of Die Liebe], but it is of more literary import than Roberto Bracco’s success will ever be [my translation] (FS II 53).
|summer||Kraus personally meets and befriends Harden in Karlsbad.|
Kraus writes to his oldest brother, Richard, to inform him that he has written to their father to wish him happy birthday. Kraus also thematizes the familial conflict and suggests that it was of a general nature characterized by fundamentally incompatible dispositions: writer and businessperson, art and commerce. Kraus writes:
Because I am in the happy position that my reason revolts from time to time, I am supposed to believe that I have some defect of the mind? It is owing to the smartest and most tender of policies which I adopted some two years ago that I have been curbing my temperament and doing everything I can not to let the divide between our family sphere and my endeavors get any larger than it already is. You will not believe me when I assure you that carrying out these tactics is often tantamount to martyrdom for me. You and the others can, of course, find common ground with father, in commerce; even differences, insofar as there were any, could at worst be of a singular and specific nature [my translation] (quoted in Marbacher Katalog 34-35).
|1898||—||Kraus drops out of college.|
|—||Kraus becomes editor (Chroniqueur) of Die Wage, a weekly.|
Kraus writes to Die Welt, a Zionist weekly published by Theodor Herzl, seeking a correction to a previously published candidate list for the “Zionistencongress” where Kraus’s name was included. Erwin Rosenberger, a co-worker of Herzl’s, refuses to print any correction and reports that Kraus was
disgruntled because his correction request was not published in Die Welt. Disgruntled and uneasy. Could it not be possible that people will actually come to believe that Karl Kraus is a party member of the Jewish State movement? … That had to be avoided [my translation] (Rosenberg, quoted in Aus großer Nähe 52-53).
|Sept.||Kraus publishes “Eine Krone für Zion”—inter alia to clear up any confusion regarding what he thinks about Zionism.|
|Nov.?||Kraus ends his work with Die Wage.|
|1899||Jan.||Kraus begins preparations for his own journal and eventually receives help from his older brother Richard and his father. The former advises on material matters, the latter provides the paper for the initial numbers of the journal and grants Karl a loan of 1,000 Gulden.|
|12 Jan.||In response to a letter from Kraus (I haven’t been able to find it), Harden declares that he is willing to help Kraus—in an advisory capacity—in founding his own journal.|
|Jan.||The liberal Neue Freie Presse catches wind of Kraus’s intention to launch his own journal and uses Harden to broker a job offer: the Neue Freie Presse offers Kraus a job as satirist—to fill Daniel Spitzer’s position, which had been vacant since his death in 1893. Kraus turns it down.|
|Feb.||Kraus sees Kalmar perform in Theodor Herzl’s Unser Kätchen.|
|Feb.||Kraus writes to Harden and advises him that his journal will appear in the spring of 1899.|
Harden responds and advises against the spring for various reasons and proposes that the fall would be more conducive to any new journal. Harden goes on to advise not just on material and substantial matters (paper, title, introductory article, etc.), but on the Neue Freie Presse’s offer to Kraus. Harden writes:
Spitzer II: not to be dismissed. Suggest to [Moriz] Benedikt that you write one article a month from now forward. And then do the Laterne as of 1 October (without telling Benedikt of course) [my translation] (quoted in Marbacher Katalog 39).
|Feb.||Kraus writes to Harden and advises that, despite Harden’s advice, he will launch his journal in the spring and that he will not be taking the post at the Neue Freie Presse.|
|17 Feb.||Harden responds to Kraus and reiterates his advice regarding both the spring as launch date and the offer from the Neue Freie Presse.|
|11 Mar.||Kraus writes to Harden and advises that his journal will launch either on 18 March or 1 October. Kraus asks whether Harden would write a “few introductory words or something of the like” [my translation] (quoted in Marbacher Katalog 40).|
|Mar.||Harden writes to Kraus pressing further that October is the better launch date.|
Kraus writes to Harden. Kraus informs Harden, among other things, that he would have followed the latter’s advice if the publisher had only given in and that the publisher did not want Kraus to worry about administrative matters. Kraus goes on:
[the publisher] is guaranteeing everything, says that the prosperity of any journal in Austria (if it is not a review) is dependent upon other factors than in Germany and—is publishing Die Fackel on either Tuesday or Wednesday. […] You will be getting the first printed copy of Die Fackel. No. 1 will contain a foreword, then an article showing how I came to Die Fackel and sketching the milieu in which I have hitherto been active (Wage, etc.). Then 5-6 political notes, further 1 big article on the Viennese clique/brood nesting between press, theater, and society. At the end, theater and various other glosses, reviews, etc. [my translation] (quoted in Marbacher Katalog 40).
|29 Mar.||Kraus is plagued by self-doubt, and he imagines the scathing criticism his journal may receive: “Aha, he’s dancing to Harden’s tune. A rip-off of a well-known archetype, etc. [my translation] (quoted in Marbacher Katalog 41). At 7:00p.m., Kraus sends Harden the first printed copy of Die Fackel.|
|1 Apr.||Kraus launches Die Fackel. The first number is essentially comprised of the writings Kraus announces to Harden in his letter dated 25 March 1895.|