1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hoffmann, August Heinrich

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

HOFFMANN, AUGUST HEINRICH (1798-1874), known as Hoffmann von Fallersleben, German poet, philologist and historian of literature, was born at Fallersleben in the duchy of Lüneburg, Hanover, on the 2nd of April 1798, the son of the mayor of the town. He was educated at the classical schools of Helmstedt and Brunswick, and afterwards at the universities of Göttingen and Bonn. His original intention was to study theology, but he soon devoted himself entirely to literature. In 1823 he was appointed custodian of the university library at Breslau, a post which he held till 1838. He was also made extraordinary professor of the German language and literature at that university in 1830, and ordinary professor in 1835; but he was deprived of his chair in 1842 in consequence of his Unpolitische Lieder (1840-1841), which gave much offence to the authorities in Prussia. He then travelled in Germany, Switzerland and Italy, and lived for two or three years in Mecklenburg, of which he became a naturalized citizen. After the revolution of 1848 he was enabled to return to Prussia, where he was restored to his rights, and received the Wartegeld — the salary attached to a promised office not yet vacant. He married in 1849, and during the next ten years lived first in Bingerbrück, afterwards in Neuwied, and then in Weimar, where together with Oskar Schade (1826-1906) he edited the Weimarische Jahrbuch (1854-1857). In 1860 he was appointed librarian to the Duke of Ratibor at the monasterial castle of Corvey near Höxter on the Weser, where he died on the 19th of January 1874. Fallersleben was one of the best popular poets of modern Germany. In politics he ardently sympathized with the progressive tendencies of his time, and he was among the earliest and most effective of the political poets who prepared the way for the outbreak of 1848. As a poet, however, he acquired distinction chiefly by the ease, simplicity and grace with which he gave expression to the passions and aspirations of daily life. Although he had not been scientifically trained in music, he composed melodies for many of his songs, and a considerable number of them are sung by all classes in every part of Germany. Among the best known is the patriotic Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles, composed in 1841 on the island of Heligoland, where a monument was erected in 1891 to his memory (subsequently destroyed).

The best of his poetical writings is his Gedichte (1827; 9th ed., Berlin, 1887); but there is great merit also in his Alemannische Lieder (1826; 5th ed., 1843), Soldatenlieder (1851), Soldatenleben (1852), Rheinleben (1865), and in his Fünfzig Kinderlieder, Fünfzig neue Kinderlieder, and Alte und neue Kinderlieder. His Unpolitische Lieder, Deutsche Lieder aus der Schweiz and Streiflichter are not without poetical value, but they are mainly interesting in relation to the movements of the age in which they were written. As a student of ancient Teutonic literature Hoffmann von Fallersleben ranks among the most persevering and cultivated of German scholars, some of the chief results of his labours being embodied in his Horae Belgicae, Fundgruben für Geschichte deutscher Sprache und Literatur, Altdeutsche Blätter, Spenden zur deutschen Literaturgeschichte and Findlinge. Among his editions of particular works may be named Reineke Vos, Monumenta Elnonensia and Theophilus. Die deutsche Philologie im Grundriss (1836) was at the time of its publication a valuable contribution to philological research, and historians of German literature still attach importance to his Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenliedes bis auf Luther (1832; 3rd ed., 1861), Unsere volkstümlichen Lieder (3rd ed., 1869) and Die deutschen Gesellschaftslieder des 16. und 17. Jahrh. (2nd ed., 1860). In 1868-1870 Hoffmann published in 6 vols. an autobiography, Mein Leben: Aufzeichnungen und Erinnerungen (an abbreviated ed. in 2 vols., 1894). His Gesammelte Werke were edited by H. Gerstenberg in 8 vols. (1891-1894); his Ausgewählte Werke by H. Benzmann (1905, 4 vols.). See also Briefe von Hoffmann von Fallersleben und Moritz Haupt an Ferdinand Wolf (1874); J. M. Wagner, Hoffmann von Fallersleben, 1818-1868 (1869-1870), and R. von Gottschall, Porträts und Studien (vol. v., 1876).