The Munich Poets’ Association “Die Krokodile”

The name of the Munich Poets' Association "Das Krokodil" or "Die Krokodile" (The Crocodiles) is derived from the humorous poem "Das Krokodil zu Singapur" (The Crocodile from Singapore) by Hermann Lingg (1820-1905). The association's symbol accordingly presented a crocodile made of plaster on a pedestal, on which the names of the association were engraved in "hieroglyphic lettering", the "pyramid made of cardboard" contained the protocol book, and the members were given animal names related to that of a crocodile. The society was founded in the winter of 1857 and existed until 1883. However, only during the first decade of its existence it was of any literary significance.

The "crocodiles" had their seat in Munich. They met once a week on Thursday or Friday evening at so-called "holy ponds", i.e. in coffee, wine and private houses.

Even before they were founded there had been literary associations, such as the "Zwanglose Gesellschaft" in Munich (Informal Association, 1837) or the Berlin "Tunnel über der Spree" (Tunnel over the Spree river, 1827), which was to serve as a model for the "crocodiles".

They met for readings from unpublished works of their members – mainly poetry and epic verse – but did not neglect criticism, the exchange of ideas and sociability. In order to prove themselves as a "compacte geistige Macht" (compact intellectual power Korrespondenzbericht 1856), the members submitted to the control of their most important figure of authority besides Paul Heyse (1830-1914), i.e. to the contemporary poet and "pope of poets" Emanuel Geibel (1815-1884). Nevertheless, there was no lack of one-sided sanctions, intrigues and patronage. The journalist and "crocodile" co-founder Julius Grosse (1828-1902) ruled: "The crocodile was not a society of friends, but of competitors who did not trust one another properly, but rather attacked each other more or less secretly." (Julius Waldemar Grosse, Ursachen und Wirkungen, 1896).

At the beginning was the appointment of foreign scholars and writers by King Max II of Bavaria (1811-1864). Munich was to become the intellectual centre of German art and science. Some kind of overarching sociability developed, in particular since the king and his adjutants wanted to be included in the exchange. The newly appointed, however, were also to have an active influence among themselves, among the upper classes of the Munich bourgeoisie, which is why the king recommended communication between foreign and native scholars and artists. Heyse followed the order with the plan for a Saturday association for the exchange of ideas in November 1854. After a trial in the coffee house "Zur Stadt München" on 5 November 1856, the "crocodiles" were created.

The virtual exhibition presents a portrait of this poets' society. Works and letters by well-known and lesser-known authors, their classicist-idealistic artistic aspirations and the history and impact of the association are presented on the basis of selected objects. The focus is on the members, on the sources on the "crocodiles" and on the texts about individual poets.

About the exhibition