Elisabeth Stopp (1911-1996) and German Romanticism

The opening sentence of the foreword to a volume of selected essays by Elisabeth Stopp, entitled German Romantics in context (746:15.c.95.558), lays immediate emphasis on her links with libraries –

Stopp - Thesis cover (detail)

Stopp – Thesis cover (detail)

Elisabeth Stopp has been associated with Cambridge for over sixty years – with its libraries, colleges, undergraduates and research students. Together with her husband Freddy she was a pillar of German teaching there, and numerous careers in Germanistik were directly launched by their joint and unstinting efforts.

Both Elisabeth and Freddy were regular users of the University Library’s collection for several decades. The Library always opens on both bank holidays in May, and the Stopps always made a point of coming in as a gesture of solidarity with the staff. It is not surprising then that both would bequeath significant items from their personal libraries to the UL. We have well over 100 volumes from Elisabeth’s personal collection.

Elisabeth Stopp

Elisabeth Stopp

There is a copy of Elisabeth’s 1938 doctoral thesis on The place of Italy in the life and works of Ludwig Tieck (PhD.899-900) in the Library’s thesis collection, together with two offprints of articles she had published in 1985, offering corrections to the original thesis. This was an age when women could not be full members of the University, so Elisabeth could not graduate officially. Only in 1986 would she take a Cambridge degree in person, when awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters for her publications on French and German literature.

In the 1960s Elisabeth’s research interests focused on 17th century French mystics, most particularly on St François de Sales, but in the 1970s she ran notable seminars and published widely in the field of German Romanticism, being awarded the Eichendorff-Medaille in 1982.

Stopp - Romantics in context

German Romantics in context

Most of the books from Elisabeth’s collection which came to the Library can be identified by a Newton search under her name. For the most part they reflect her German rather than her French research interests. They include editions by Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, Otto Ludwig, Theodor Körner, Ernst Toller and Rudolf Borchardt. The bequest also includes a significant number of critical works on Brentano, Novalis, Goethe and Johann Michael Sailer. There are seven catalogues of German literary exhibitions and an interesting little collection of books on graphology.

Elisabeth also had a strong sense of tradition. When I had recently started as German specialist at the Library, she appeared by my desk one day bearing the three hefty volumes of Trevor Jones’s Harrap’s standard German and English dictionary. It was the presentation copy which Trevor had given to John Oates, former Head of Rare Books, Deputy Librarian and for a brief spell Acting Librarian, bearing the inscription “For John, who made the corrections on p. 97, in friendship and gratitude, from Trevor”. Elisabeth had found the books in a Cambridge bookshop. “I thought you might like these, David”. They are even more precious to me now than when Elisabeth gave them to me 23 years ago.

David Lowe

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