Prepared by Richard Kitson
Online only (2016)
The Meister. Quarterly Journal of the London Branch of the Wagner Society [MEI] was published from February 13, 1888 to November 25, 1895. The editor, William Ashton Ellis (1852-1915), was the well-known but somewhat abused English-language translator who prepared and edited an English-language translation of Wagner’s Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtung (1883) [Collected Writings and Poetry], later published in eight volumes under the title Richard Wagner’s Prose Works (1892-99). Ellis was assisted in the journal’s preparation by Edgar Frederick Jacques (1850-1907), sometime editor of the important British music journals The Musical World and The Musical Times. The aim of the editors of MEI as expressed at the outset of the first issue was “to show the English-speaking world the many aspects of the genius of the departed Master,” necessitated by the belief that few Anglophones were competent readers of German prose.
The publication dates of some of MEI’s issues appear to be related to significant events in Wagner’s life: all the first issues of each year are dated February 13, the anniversary of Wagner’s death on February 13, 1883, while all but the second issue May 20, 1888 are dated 22 May, the date of Wagner’s birth on May 22, 1813. Each of the eight volumes consists of approximately 140 pages (volumes 1 through 3), or 128 pages (volumes 4 through 8), all printed in single column format and devoted to selections from Wagner’s writings and articles about Wagner, with the exception of the final one or two pages of each issue printed in two-column format and devoted to reviews and current remarks pertaining to performances of Wagner’s works. The issues are numbered consecutively from 1 through 32. A table of contents for each volume is inserted before the first issue.
The London Branch of the Wagner Society was founded in 1872 by Edward Dannreuther, initially to secure support for the financing of the Bayreuth Festival. The Meister appears to have been created to distribute English-language translations of Wagner’s many writings to ardent British Wagnerians. William Ashton Ellis’s English-language translations of the following writings of Wagner are found in the pages of The Meister: “Art and Revolution”; “Religion and Art”; “Homage to Spohr and Fischer”; “Pilgrimage to Beethoven”; “Bellini”; “German Opera”; “On the Performance of Tannhäuser”; "Sketch of Die Sieger”; Overture to Tristan und Isolde”; “Prelude to the Third Act of Die Meistersinger”; “Letters from Paris 1840-41”; “Wagner to His Dresden Friends”; “Pasticcio by Canto Spianato”; and “Le Freischutz.” MEI also includes a number of articles about Wagner’s operas and review of Wagner biographies, studies of his works, and reviews performances of his operas at the Bayreuth Festivals and the Covent Garden Theatre. Articles by William Ashton Ellis include remarks on the corrupt biographical information written about Wagner written by Ferinand Praeger; many reviews of the literature about Wagner and his operas by Hans Wolzogen, Maurice Kufferath, Catulle Mendès and Henry Krehbiel; a review of Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s Wagner biography; a review of a publication of Liszt’s letters collected by La Mara (Marie Gropius); and an investigation of the effects on Wagner’s philosophical thinking by the writings of the Arabic poet Hafíz.
Other writers who contributed to the discussion of various topics related to Wagner’s output and philosophy include Carl Friedrich Glasenapp on “Richard Wagner and the Bayreuther Blaetter” and “Richard Wagner’s Writings”; Charles Ainslie Barry on “Wagner among the Composers”; John South Shedlock on “Wagner as Described by Himself.” Important to a deeper understanding of Wagner’s aesthetics is found in Charles Dowdeswell’s series on “Schopenhauer’s Die Welte als Wille und Vorstellung” [The world as will and representation]. William C. Ward writes extensively on “The Niebelung’s Ring” and describes the content of Nikolaus Oesterlein’s Vienna Wagner-Museum and the difficulties of preserving the collection. J. Francis Shepard discusses the problems surrounding “Wagner’s Music in France” and the relationship of two composers in “Liszt on Wagner.” Edgar F. Jacques addresses Wagner’s musical style as based on Beethoven’s use of the leading motive in “Wagner as Melodist,” and writes a tribute about the late Walter Bache, an important and ardent Wagnerian in London’s musical circles. Louis N. Parker describes Wagner’s achievement as a playwright.