1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Spiess, Christian Heinrich
|←Spielhagen, Friedrich von||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 25
Spiess, Christian Heinrich
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SPIESS, CHRISTIAN HEINRICH (1755-1799), German writer of romances, was born at Freiberg in Saxony on the 4th of April 1755. For a time an actor, he was appointed in 1788 controller on the estate of a certain Count Künigl at Betzdikau in Bohemia, where he died, almost insane, the result of his weird fancies, on the 17th of August 1799.
Spiess, in his Ritter-, Räuber- und Geister-Romane, as they are called — stories of knights, robbers and ghosts of the “dark” ages — the idea of which he borrowed from Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen and Schiller's Räuber and Geisterseher, was the founder of the German Schauerroman (shocker), a style of writing continued, though in a finer vein, by Karl Gottlob Cramer (1758-1817) and by Goethe's brother-in-law, Christian August Vulpius. These stories, though appealing largely to the vulgar taste, made Spiess one of the most widely read authors of his day. The most popular was a ghost story of the 13th century, Das Petermännchen (1793); among others were Der alte Überall und Nirgends (1792); Die Löwenritter (1794), and Hans Heiling, vierter und letzter Regent der Erd- Luft- Feuer- und Wasser- Geister (1798). Beside numerous comedies, Spiess wrote, anticipating Schiller, a tragedy Maria Stuart (1784), which was in the same year performed at the court theatre in Vienna.
See Karl Goedeke, Grundriss, v. 506 sqq.; Müller-Fraureuth, Die Ritter- und Räuberromane (Halle, 1894).