The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Richter, Johann Paul Friedrich

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Richter, Johann Paul Friedrich
Edition of 1920. See also Jean Paul on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

RICHTER, Johann Paul Friedrich, generally known as Jean Paul, German author: b. Wunsiedel, near Baireuth, Bavaria, 21 March 1763; d. Baireuth, 14 Nov. 1825. He was educated at Leipzig and became a tutor and schoolmaster. In 1794 he turned from teaching to a general literary activity. The prince-primate Dalberg gave him in 1809 an annual pension of 1,000 florins, continued by the king of Bavaria. The fantastic quality of his genius was at first disconcerting but gradually, says Carlyle, he became considered “not a strange crack-brained mixture of enthusiast and buffoon, but a man of infinite humor, sensibility, force and penetration.” His style is perhaps one of the most barbarous and his books are quite without structure. His humor, however, is genuine, though frequently clumsy. He affected boldly to despise all literary proportion and technique and is recompensed by having the bulk of his work pronounced difiicult or unreadable. Yet scattered through his writings are the best of aphorisms and some of the most finely imagined passages in German literature. These may serve to account for the interest Carlyle and De Quincy took in him. Outside of Germany he has not been greatly read, though there are various English renderings of his volumes, such as ‘Walt and Vult’ by Lee (1846); ‘Titan’ by Brooks (1863); ‘Flower, Fruit and Thorn Pieces’ by Ewing (1877); and ‘Levana’ by Wood (1887). The first novel, ‘Die unsichtbare Loge’ (‘The Invisible Lodge’) appeared in 1793. It was followed by ‘Hesperus’ (1794); ‘Biographische Belustigungen unter der Gehirnschale einer Riesin’ (‘Biographical Recreations under the Skull of a Giantess,’ 1796); ‘Leben des Quintus Fixlein’ (1796); ‘Blumen, Frucht und Dornenstücke’ (‘Flower, Fruit and Thorn Pieces,’ 1796); ‘Der Jubelsenior’ (‘Parson in Jubilee,’ 1797); ‘Das Kampaner Thal’ (1797); ‘Titan’ (1800); ‘Flegeljahre’ (translated by Carlyle, ‘Wild Oats,’ 1804). The two last are regarded as among his best productions. ‘Das heimliche Klaglied der jetzigen Männer’ appeared in 1801; ‘Dr. Katzenberger's Badereise’ (1809); ‘Des Feldpredigers Schmelzle Reise nach Flätz’ (1809); ‘Leben Fibels’ (1812); ‘Der Komet, oder Nicolaus Markgraf’ (1820-22); ‘Die Vorschule der Aesthetik,’ his first important philosophical work, appeared in 1804, followed by ‘Levana, oder Erziehungslehre’ (1807), a work on education. Further titles are ‘Friedenspredigt’ (1808); ‘Dämmerungen für Deutschland’ (1809); ‘Mars und Phöbus' Thronwechsel im Jahr 1814’ (1814); ‘Politische Fastenpredigten’ (1817). A collection of his works, ‘Sämmtliche werke,’ edited by him before his death, was published in 65 volumes (1826-38). ‘Der Papierdrache,’ his last work, was published in 1845. Consult Spazier, R. O., ‘Jean Paul Friedrich Richter, ein biographisches Commentar zu dessen Werken’ (1833); Carlyle's two essays on Richter; Förster, ‘Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben Richters’ (1863); and Nerrlich, P., ‘Jean Paul und seine Zeitgenossen’ (1889).