1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Matthisson, Friedrich von

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MATTHISSON, FRIEDRICH VON (1761–1831), German poet, was born at Hohendodeleben near Magdeburg, the son of the village pastor, on the 23rd of January 1761. After studying theology and philology at the university of Halle, he was appointed in 1781 master at the classical school Philanthropin in Dessau. This once famous seminary was, however, then rapidly decaying in public favour, and in 1784 Matthisson was glad to accept a travelling tutorship. He lived for two years with the Swiss author Bonstetten at Nyon on the lake of Geneva. In 1794 he was appointed reader and travelling companion to the princess Louisa of Anhalt-Dessau. In 1812 he entered the service of the king of Württemberg, was ennobled, created counsellor of legation, appointed intendant of the court theatre and chief librarian of the royal library at Stuttgart. In 1828 he retired and settled at Wörlitz near Dessau, where he died on the 12th of March 1831. Matthisson enjoyed for a time a great popularity on account of his poems, Gedichte (1787; 15th ed., 1851; new ed., 1876), which Schiller extravagantly praised for their melancholy sweetness and their fine descriptions of scenery. The verse is melodious and the language musical, but the thought and sentiments they express are too often artificial and insincere. His Adelaide has been rendered famous owing to Beethoven's setting of the song. Of his elegies, Die Elegie in den Ruinen eines alten Bergschlosses is still a favourite. His reminiscences, Erinnerungen (5 vols., 1810–1816), contain interesting accounts of his travels.

Matthisson's Schriften appeared in eight volumes (1825–1829), of which the first contains his poems, the remainder his Erinnerungen; a ninth volume was added in 1833 containing his biography by H. Döring. His Literarischer Nachlass, with a selection from his correspondence, was published in four volumes by F. R. Schoch in 1832.