Monday, March 12, 2012

Bodo Wildberg (1862-1942)

Pseudonym of Heinrich Ludwig William Gabriel Dickinson
Aka Heino Louis Bodo von Dickinson-Wildberg
Poet, Playwright, Author, Translator, and Editor
Born August 7, 1862, Lemberg, Austrian Empire (now Lviv, Ukraine)
Died January 31, 1942, Berlin, Germany

Bodo Wildberg was born on August 7, 1862, in the Austrian Empire city of Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine), a son of British-Austrian aristocracy. His father was Heinrich August Dickinson, Esquire (1822-1866), a major in the Austrian army and a descendant of Edmund Dickinson, a physician and alchemist in the court of King Charles II of England. Wildberg's mother was Maria Theresa, the widowed Baroness von Escher, born Baroness von Hennet and well placed in Prague. Major Dickinson was killed in 1866 in the Battle of Königgrätz during the Austro-Prussian War. Sometime after that and before 1876, his son attended school in Dresden. In 1876, the boy matriculated at the Theresianum in Vienna. Later he studied in Prague. The subjects of his study included law, philosophy, and philology. During his working life and into retirement, Wildberg lived in Teplice-Šanov, Dresden, and Berlin. To compound the loss of his father, Wildberg's son was killed in France during World War I.

Bodo Wildberg is an obscurity, little known even in his own country despite his long career, his sizable output, and his association with the renowned German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). His nickname, Bodo, was once a common name in his native land, especially during the Middle Ages. I don't  know the source of the second half of his pseudonym, Wildberg, although it may have been a surname from his mother's family. Bodo Wildberg's first published works--verse and plays--went into print in the 1880s. The author's first foray into the world of the macabre and supernatural was a collection with a title translated as Death Shoots, which can also be translated as Deadly Instincts and Deadly Urge (1894). Other collections followed: Dark Stories (1910), The Snakeskin and Other Strange Stories (1911), and The Sixth Panther and Other Stories (1912). Wildberg also wrote novels of fantasy and adventure and translated works by Edgar Allan Poe into German. He was known to American readers perhaps only for the stories "The Sixth Panther," published in Young's Magazine in July 1911, and "The Snakeskin Cigar Case," published in Weird Tales in July 1936. According to a German Wikipedia entry, Wildberg's work was mainly in the category of fantasy and is comparable to the work of British writers H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) and John Beresford Davies (1873-1947). A Russian website compares him to Robert Louis Stevenson and Edgar Rice Burroughs among others. According to reader Lars Dangel, Wildberg was extremely wealthy and unconcerned with material success as an author.

Wildberg died in Berlin on January 31, 1942, at age seventy-nine. What I have read of him sounds very intriguing. I hope that more of his works will someday be translated in English.

Bodo Wildberg's Story in Weird Tales
"The Snakeskin Cigar Case" translated by Roy Temple House (July 1936)

Further Reading
A list of works by and about Bodo Wildberg appears in the German Wikipedia entry on him. You can find it by clicking here.

Author Bodo Wildberg (1862-1942)
The same photograph on the cover of what appears to be a journal or pamphlet. [See the note below for a correction.] The title "The Sixth Panther" appears below his signature. I hope that a German reader can shed some light on this image and on Wildberg himself.
Postscript (Feb. 15, 2013): I have heard from a reader and collector on Bodo Wildberg. I will quote him directly: The bottom picture "shows an advertising stamp. These stamps were collectibles and very popular around 1900. Many companies (cigarettes, food, zoo, publishers, industrial companies, etc.) gave them away to promote their work. Today they are very hard to find as in 1920 they were already out of fashion." The stamp shows the cover of The Sixth Panther and Other Stories. Thanks to Lars Dangel for further information, corrections, and clarifications. Thanks to Mr. Dangel also for corrections to Wildberg's names.

Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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