The New International Encyclopædia/Schlegel, August Wilhelm von
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Schlegel, August Wilhelm von
|Schlegel, Friedrich von→|
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SCHLEGEL, shlā'gel, August Wilhelm von (1767-1845). A distinguished German critic, poet, and Orientalist. He was born at Hanover, September 8, 1767, and studied at Göttingen. He first began to win prominence in literature, while a lecturer at Jena, by his contributions to Schiller's Horen and Musenalmanach, and to the Allgemeine Litteraturzeitung. About the same time his translation of Shakespeare began to appear (1797-1810), the influence of which on German poetry and on the German stage was alike great. The poet Tieck undertook a revision of the work, together with a translation of such plays as Schlegel had omitted (1825, 1839, 1843). The Schlegel-Tieck translation is universally considered better than any other rendering of Shakespeare in a foreign language. Thanks to Sehlegel and Tieck, Shakespeare has become a national poet of Germany. Schlegel also delivered at Jena a series of lectures on æsthetics, and, with his brother Friedrich (q.v.), edited the Athenäum (1798-1800), a severely critical authority of high rank. He published, besides his first volume of poems, Gedichte (1800), and, in company with his brother, the Charakteristiken und Kritiken (1801). In 1801 Sehlegel left Jena for Berlin, where he gave a series of lectures on literature, art, and the spirit of the time. In 1803 appeared his Ion, an antique tragedy of considerable merit. It was followed by his Spanisches Theater (1803-09), consisting of five pieces of Calderon's, admirably translated, the effect of which has been to make that poet a favorite with the German people, and his Blumensträusse der italienischen, spanischen und portugiesischen Poesie (Berlin, 1804), a charming collection of southern lyrics, from the appearance of which dates the naturalization in German verse of the metrical forms of the Romanic races. In 1804, having become estranged from his wife, a daughter of Professor Michaelis of Göttingen, Schlegel entered the household of Madame de Staël as a tutor of her children. He traveled much, visiting Italy, France, Austria, and Sweden. He wrote in French a Comparaison de la Phèdre d'Euripide avec celle de Racine (1807). Probably his most valuable, and certainly his most widely popular work, was the Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Litteratur (1809-11), originally delivered at Vienna, in the spring of 1808, and translated into most European languages.
Between 1811 and 1815 Schlegel published a new collection of his poems (Poetische Werke), which contains his masterpieces, “Arion,” “Pygmalion,” “Sankt Lucas,” and is notable for the richness and variety of its poetic forms. In 1818 Schlegel, now raised to the nobility, was appointed professor of history in the University of Bonn, and devoted himself especially to the history of the fine arts and to philological research. He was one of the first students of Sanskrit in Germany, and published at Bonn an Indische Bibliothek (1820-26). About 1817 Schlegel married a daughter of Professor Paulus of Heidelberg, but they parted in 1821. Schlegel was quarrelsome, jealous, and ungenerous in his relations with literary men, and did not even shrink from slander when his spleen was excited. He died in Bonn, May 12, 1845. Consult: Pichtos, Die Aesthetik A. W. von Schlegels in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung) (Berlin, 1894); and Bernays, Zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Schlegelschen Shakspeare (Leipzig, 1872).