1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hippel, Theodor Gottlieb von
HIPPEL, THEODOR GOTTLIEB VON (1741–1796), German satirical and humorous writer, was born on the 31st of January 1741, at Gerdauen in East Prussia, where his father was rector of a school. He enjoyed an excellent education at home, and in his sixteenth year he entered Königsberg university as a student of theology. Interrupting his studies, he went, on the invitation of a friend, to St Petersburg, where he was introduced at the brilliant court of the empress Catherine II. Returning to Königsberg he became a tutor in a private family; but, falling in love with a young lady of high position, his ambition was aroused, and giving up his tutorship he devoted himself with enthusiasm to legal studies. He was successful in his profession, and in 1780 was appointed chief burgomaster in Königsberg, and in 1786 privy councillor of war and president of the town. As he rose in the world, however, his inclination for matrimony vanished, and the lady who had stimulated his ambition was forgotten. He died at Königsberg on the 23rd of April 1796, leaving a considerable fortune. Hippel had extraordinary talents, rich in wit and fancy; but his was a character full of contrasts and contradictions. Cautiousness and ardent passion, dry pedantry and piety, morality and sensuality; simplicity and ostentation composed his nature; and, hence, his literary productions never attained artistic finish. In his Lebensläufe nach aufsteigender Linie (1778–1781) he intended to describe the lives of his father and grandfather, but he eventually confined himself to his own. It is an autobiography, in which persons well known to him are introduced, together with a mass of heterogeneous reflections on life and philosophy. Kreuz- und Querzüge des Ritters A bis Z (1793–1794) is a satire levelled against the follies of the age—ancestral pride and the thirst for orders, decoration and the like. Among others of his better known works are Über die Ehe (1774) and Über die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Weiber (1792). Hippel has been called the fore-runner of Jean Paul Richter, and has some resemblance to this author, in his constant digressions and in the interweaving of scientific matter in his narrative. Like Richter he was strongly influenced by Laurence Sterne.
In 1827–1838 a collected edition of Hippel’s works in 14 vols., was issued at Berlin. Über die Ehe has been edited by E. Brenning (Leipzig, 1872), and the Lebensläufe nach aufsteigender Linie has in a modernized edition by A. von Öttingen (1878), gone through several editions. See J. Czerny, Sterne, Hippel und Jean Paul (Berlin, 1904).