1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bitzius, Albrecht

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BITZIUS, ALBRECHT (1797–1854), Swiss novelist, best known by his pet name of “Jeremias Gotthelf,” was born on the 4th of October 1797 at Morat, where his father was pastor. In 1804 the home was moved to Utzenstorf, a village in the Bernese Emmenthal. Here young Bitzius grew up, receiving his early education and consorting with the boys of the village, as well as helping his father to cultivate his glebe. In 1812 he went to complete his education at Bern, and in 1820 was received as a pastor. In 1821 he visited the university of Göttingen, but returned home in 1822 to act as his father’s assistant. On his father’s death (1824) he went in the same capacity to Herzogenbuchsee, and later to Bern (1829). Early in 1831 he went as assistant to the aged pastor of the village of Lützelflüh, in the Upper Emmenthal (between Langnau and Burgdorf), being soon elected his successor (1832) and marrying one of his granddaughters (1833). He spent the rest of his life there, dying on the 22nd of October 1854, and leaving three children (the son was a pastor, the two daughters married pastors). His first work, the Bauernspiegel, appeared in 1837. It purported to be the life of Jeremias Gotthelf, narrated by himself, and this name was later adopted by the author as his pen name. It is a living picture of Bernese (or, strictly speaking, Emmenthal) village life, true to nature, and not attempting to gloss over its defects and failings. It is written (like the rest of his works) in the Bernese dialect of the Emmenthal, though it must be remembered that Bitzius was not (like Auerbach) a peasant by birth, but belonged to the educated classes, so that he reproduces what he had seen and learnt, and not what he had himself personally experienced. The book was a great success, as it was a picture of real life, and not of fancifully beribboned 18th-century villagers. Among his later tales are the Leiden und Freuden eines Schulmeisters (1838–1839), Uli der Knecht (1841), with its continuation, Uli der Pachter (1849), Anne Babi Jowager (1843–1844), Käthi die Grossmutter (1847), Die Käserei in der Vehfreude (1850), and the Erlebnisse eines Schuldenbauers (1854). He published also several volumes of shorter tales. One slight drawback to some of his writings is the echo of local political controversies, for Bitzius was a Whig and strongly opposed to the Radical party in the canton, which carried the day in 1846.

Lives by C. Manuel, in the Berlin edition of Bitzius’s works (Berlin, 1861), and by J. Ammann in vol. i. (Bern, 1884) of the Sammlung Bernischer Biographien. His works were issued in 24 vols. at Berlin, 1856–1861, while 10 vols., giving the original text of each story, were issued at Bern, 1898–1900 (edition not to be completed).  (W. A. B. C.)