1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Börne, Karl Ludwig

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BÖRNE, KARL LUDWIG (1786–1837), German political writer and satirist, was born on the 6th of May 1786 at Frankfort-on-Main, where his father, Jakob Baruch, carried on the business of a banker. He received his early education at Giessen, but as Jews were ineligible at that time for public appointments in Frankfort, young Baruch was sent to study medicine at Berlin under a physician, Markus Herz, in whose house he resided. Young Baruch became deeply enamoured of his patron’s wife, the talented and beautiful Henriette Herz (1764–1847), and gave vent to his adoration in a series of remarkable letters. Tiring of medical science, which he had subsequently pursued at Halle, he studied constitutional law and political science at Heidelberg and Giessen, and in 1811 took his doctor’s degree at the latter university. On his return to Frankfort, now constituted as a grand duchy under the sovereignty of the prince bishop Karl von Dalberg, he received (1811) the appointment of police actuary in that city. The old conditions, however, returned in 1814 and he was obliged to resign his office. Embittered by the oppression under which the Jews suffered in Germany, he engaged in journalism, and edited the Frankfort liberal newspapers, Staatsristretto and Die Zeitschwingen. In 1818 he became a convert to Lutheran protestantism, changing his name from Löb Baruch to Ludwig Börne. This step was taken less out of religious conviction than, as in the case of so many of his descent, in order to improve his social standing. From 1818 to 1821 he edited Die Wage, a paper distinguished by its lively political articles and its powerful but sarcastic theatrical criticisms. This paper was suppressed by the police authorities, and in 1821 Börne quitted for a while the field of publicist writing and led a retired life in Paris, Hamburg and Frankfort. After the July Revolution (1830), he hurried to Paris, expecting to find the newly-constituted state of society somewhat in accordance with his own ideas of freedom. Although to some extent disappointed in his hopes, he was not disposed to look any more kindly on the political condition of Germany; this lent additional zest to the brilliant satirical letters (Briefe aus Paris, 1830–1833, published Paris, 1834), which he began to publish in his last literary venture, La Balance, a revival under its French name of Die Wage. The Briefe aus Paris was Börne’s most important publication, and a landmark in the history of German journalism. Its appearance led him to be regarded as one of the leaders of the new literary party of “Young Germany.” He died at Paris on the 12th of February 1837.

Börne’s works are remarkable for brilliancy of style and for a thorough French vein of satire. His best criticism is to be found in his Denkrede auf Jean Paul (1826), a writer for whom he had warm sympathy and admiration, in his Dramaturgische Blätter (1829–1834), and the witty satire, Menzel der Franzosenfresser (1837). He also wrote a number of short stories and sketches, of which the best known are the Monographie der deutschen Postschnecke (1829) and Der Esskünstler (1822).

The first edition of his Gesammelte Schriften appeared at Hamburg (1829–1834) in 14 volumes, followed by 6 volumes of Nachgelassene Schriften (Mannheim, 1844–1850); more complete is the edition in 12 volumes (Hamburg, 1862–1863), reprinted in 1868 and subsequently. The latest complete edition is that edited by A. Klaar (8 vols., Leipzig, 1900). For further biographical matter see K. Gutzkow, Börnes Leben (Hamburg, 1840), and M. Holzmann, L. Börne, sein Leben und sein Wirken (Berlin, 1888). Börnes Briefe an Henriette Herz (1802–1807), first published in 1861, have been re-edited by L. Geiger (Oldenburg, 1905), who has also published Börne’s Berliner Briefe (1828) (Berlin, 1905). See also Heine’s witty attack on Börne (Werke, ed. Elster, vii.), G. Gervinus’ essay in his Historiche Schriften (Darmstadt, 1838), and the chapters in G. Brandes, Hovedströmninger i det 19 de Aarhundredes Litteratur vol. vi. (Copenhagen, 1890, German trans. 1891; English trans. 1905), and in J. Proelss, Das junge Deutschland (Stuttgart, 1892).