Settlers of the Marsh


Early life in Europe

He was born Felix Paul Greve in Radomno, West Prussia, but was brought up in Hamburg where he graduated with the "Abitur" from the famous Gymnasium Johanneum in 1898. After studying Classical Languages & Archaeology in Bonn, he became a prolific translator of World Literature and a member of Stefan George's homoerotic group, the George-Kreis, around 1900. During his year in Munich, he befriended Karl Wolfskehl, and briefly shared an address with Thomas Mann at the Pension Gisels from August to September 1902. In early 1903, amidst scandal, he settled in Palermo, Italy, with Else Plötz Endell, the wife of renowned architect August Endell (Else would later become the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven). In his 1946 autobiography In Search of Myself, Grove suggests that despite the homoerotic context of his work up to late 1902, his first sexual encounter with Elsa determined his sexuality: “If I had not always been so, I had become definitely, finally heterosexual.”[2]

Grove’s rising career took a dramatic downward spin that followed his alliance with Else. Unable to repay loans made by his intimate friend and wealthy patron Herman Kilian, he was promptly charged and convicted of fraud; from 1903–04, he served a deeply humiliating one-year sentence in the penitentiary in Bonn, leaving his reputation destroyed. Much suggests that Kilian (whose Anglo-German ancestry Grove would later appropriate for himself in his Canadian autobiographies) had acted from motives of jealousy. While in prison, Grove composed his first novel, Fanny Essler, a thinly veiled roman à clef about Else’s sexual adventures including her marriage with August Endell.[3] The novel, which moreover poked fun at the Stefan George circle, prompted a complete break from George’s coterie. From 1904 to early 1906, the pair lived in voluntary exile, first in Wollerau, Switzerland, then in Paris-Plage, France, from where Grove paid H. G. Wells a few visits in his Sandhurst villa just across the Channel. In 1906, the couple returned to Berlin, where they were married on August 22, 1907.[4]

Life in North America

By 1909, Grove was once again in deep financial trouble, having double-sold his latest German translation, Jonathan Swift's Prosa Werke in four volumes.[5] With his wife’s help, he staged his own suicide [6] and departed for North America on the White Star Liner Megantic in late July 1909. His wife, Else Greve, joined him a year later in Pittsburgh, and the couple farmed near Sparta, Kentucky, until 1911, when Grove left her permanently. She modeled for artists in nearby Cincinnati, and later became well known in New York dada circles as the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven after her marriage in 1913 to the German Baron Leopold von Freytag-Loringhoven. Grove moved west and stayed on a large Bonanza Farm near Fargo (based on the Amenia & Sharon Land Company) in the late summer of 1912.

In 1912 Grove, whose legal name was still Greve, arrived in Manitoba, Canada, where he changed his name to Frederick Philip Grove and married a young schoolteacher, Catherine Wiens, on August 2, 1914.[7] There are no records of a divorce from his first wife, who details in her memoir that he had suddenly deserted her.[8] He first taught in rural areas, such as Haskett, Winkler, Virden, and Gladstone, but after settling in Rapid City in 1922, he devoted himself entirely to his writing career. In 1927, Grove and his wife lost their only child, Phyllis May, shortly before her twelfth birthday, which was a devastating loss. In 1928-29, Grove went on three coast-to-coast lecture tours, before the couple moved to Ontario in the fall of 1929. There, their son, Arthur Leonard Grove, was born on October 14, 1930.[9] Grove briefly became an editor with Graphic Publishers, who had published his first autobiographical novel, A Search for America, in 1927, before moving to Simcoe, Ontario. From there, he continued to write despite increasing ill-health, until he suffered a crippling stroke in late 1946. While in Simcoe, he ran for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in the 1943 Ontario general election.[10]

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