1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gutzkow, Karl Ferdinand

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3578101911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12 — Gutzkow, Karl Ferdinand

GUTZKOW, KARL FERDINAND (1811–1878), German novelist and dramatist, was born on the 17th of March 1811 at Berlin, where his father held a clerkship in the war office. After leaving school he studied theology and philosophy at the university of his native town, and while still a student, began his literary career by the publication in 1831 of a periodical entitled Forum der Journalliteratur. This brought him to the notice of Wolfgang Menzel, who invited him to Stuttgart to assist in the editorship of the Literaturblatt. At the same time he continued his university studies at Jena, Heidelberg and Munich. In 1832 he published anonymously at Hamburg Briefe eines Narren an eine Närrin, and in 1833 appeared at Stuttgart Maha-Guru, Geschichte eines Gottes, a fantastic and satirical romance. In 1835 he went to Frankfort, where he founded the Deutsche Revue. In the same year appeared Wally, die Zweiflerin, from the publication of which may be said to date the school of writers who, from their opposition to the literary, social and religious traditions of romanticism, received the name of “Young Germany.” The work was directed specially against the institution of marriage and the belief in revelation; and whatever interest it might have attracted from its own merits was enhanced by the action of the German federal diet, which condemned Gutzkow to three months’ imprisonment, decreed the suppression of all he had written or might yet write, and prohibited him from exercising the functions of editor within the German confederation. During his term of imprisonment at Mannheim, Gutzkow employed himself in the composition of his treatise Zur Philosophie der Geschichte (1836). On obtaining his freedom he returned to Frankfort, whence he went in 1837 to Hamburg. Here he inaugurated a new epoch of his literary activity by bringing out his tragedy Richard Savage (1839), which immediately made the round of all the German theatres. Of his numerous other plays the majority are now neglected; but a few have obtained an established place in the repertory of the German theatre—especially the comedies Zopf und Schwert (1844), Das Urbild des Tartüffe (1847), Der Königsleutnant (1849) and the blank verse tragedy, Uriel Acosta (1847). In 1847 Gutzkow went to Dresden, where he succeeded Tieck as literary adviser to the court theatre. Meanwhile he had not neglected the novel. Seraphine (1838) was followed by Blasedow und seine Söhne, a satire on the educational theories of the time. Between 1850 and 1852 appeared Die Ritter vom Geiste, which may be regarded as the starting-point for the modern German social novel. Der Zauberer von Rom is a powerful study of Roman Catholic life in southern Germany. The success of Die Ritter vom Geiste suggested to Gutzkow the establishment of a journal on the model of Dickens’ Household Words, entitled Unterhaltungen am häuslichen Herd, which first appeared in 1852 and was continued till 1862. In 1864 he had an epileptic fit, and his productions show henceforth decided traces of failing powers. To this period belong the historical novels Hohenschwangau (1868) and Fritz Ellrodt (1872), Lebensbilder (1870–1872), consisting of autobiographic sketches, and Die Söhne Pestalozzis (1870), the plot of which is founded on the story of Kaspar Hauser. On account of a return of his nervous malady, Gutzkow in 1873 made a journey to Italy, and on his return took up his residence in the country near Heidelberg, whence he removed to Frankfort-on-Main, dying there on the 16th of December 1878. With the exception of one or two of his comedies, Gutzkow’s writings have fallen into neglect. But he exerted a powerful influence on the opinions of modern Germany; and his works will always be of interest as the mirror in which the intellectual and social struggles of his time are best reflected.

An edition of Gutzkow’s collected works appeared at Jena (1873–1876, new ed., 1879). E. Wolff has published critical editions of Gutzkow’s Meisterdramen (1892) and Wally die Zweiflerin (1905). His more important novels have been frequently reprinted. For Gutzkow’s life see his various autobiographical writings such as Aus der Knabenzeit (1852), Rückblicke auf mein Leben (1876), &c. For an estimate of his life and work see J. Proelss, Das junge Deutschland (1892); also H. H. Houben, Studien über die Dramen Gutzkows (1898) and Gutzkow-Funde (1901).