James Grunert, ein Sittenroman aus Berlin W (A Moral Tale from West Berlin) was first published privately in Vienna in 1908. It purports to be the frank memoirs of a young man from the finest Berlin banking family, who from boyhood on is besotted by the beautiful bodies of young women. It moves inexorably from childhood experiences of mutual caressing with young female friends to mature sexual awakenings in the salons of West Berlin.
Over the years James Grunert has appeared with several supposed authorships, including Hans or Werner von Bleichröder (actual descendants of the famous Berlin banker Gerson von Bleichröder), or as here Richard Werther. In fact it was written by the prolific Austrian writer and journalist Ernst Klein (1876–1951), almost certainly as a commission from the well-known Berlin clandestine publisher Willy Schindler. Klein moved from Vienna to Berlin in 1905, and found his métier in writing mildly erotic novels and plays, often using pseudonyms. His 1907 Skandal von Graz (The Graz Scandal) was an underground bestseller, the first of over a dozen erotic novels, while his sensational dramas were also popular – Der seltsame Fall (The Strange Case), based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, was performed over 350 times in Berlin alone.
The ‘Charroux’ illustrations for this edition of James Grunert demonstrate that the artist had now fully developed a mature pen-and-ink style, able to create a meaningful facial expression or background furnishing with the absolute minimum of strokes.