In 1924, Edith Renouf (NC 1881) donated a collection of her books and two manuscripts to Newnham Library. She was the great-niece of two celebrated German Romantic writers: Bettina von Arnim (née Brentano) and Clemens Brentano, themselves the grandchildren of famous eighteenth-century writer Sophie von La Roche. The Renouf Collection includes several early editions of works by the Brentanos and other members of their circle, many of whom are prominent figures in German literary history. In 2007, this collection was rediscovered, putting Newnham College Library on the map of institutional libraries with significant holdings in German Romanticism.

Newnham Post-Doctorial Affiliate Mathelinda Nabugodi will introduce one of the loveliest works in the collection: a poem by Brentano’s friend Luise Hensel (1798–1876). Luise was well connected in the intellectual and artistic elite of nineteenth-century Berlin; her painter brother Wilhelm was married to Fanny Mendelssohn and Luise spent some years living in their household. Yet she herself had little interest in worldly goods, and was devoted to her Catholic religion. Most of her poetry consists of religious lyrics and is not widely read today, even though her collection of Lieder went through fifteen editions between 1869 and 1923.

Mathelinda will discuss and translate ‘Der Armen Kleinod’ (‘A poor girl’s treasure’) – you can see the PDF of the poem and translation here.


After this year’s Festival, you are invited to bring your own voice to Luise’s poem, by using it as a springboard to creativity – so it’s not translation in a narrow sense – more a way of meditating on books, and heritage, the passage of time and how books can be tokens of the past in our present.

If you would like your creative response to be considered as part of our Summer 2022 Festival, when we will be displaying in College a selection of submitted works alongside our Luise Hensel manuscript, then please follow the guidelines below. Selected submissions may also be chosen to be part of a reading at the Festival, and may be displayed online on our website.

We will retain in our College Archive a record of the chosen submissions as part of our record of the 150th celebrations.

Please post your creative response to:

Mathelinda Nabugodi

Newnham College

Sidgwick Avenue

Cambridge CB3 9DF

or submit by email

Entries must arrive by 31st December 2021. Your work may be handwritten or typed as you prefer. Please write your name on your creative response and enclose your name and contact details on a separate piece of paper.


MATHELINDA NABUGODI is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of English and a Post-Doctoral Affiliate at Newnham College. Her current research project is set in Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s archive. She is interested in what draft manuscripts can tell us about poetic composition and in the relations between creative and critical practice, both in the Romantic period and in our present.