1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Reuter, Fritz

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REUTER, FRITZ (1810-1874), German novelist, was born on the 7th of November 1810, at Stavenhagen, in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a small country town where his father was burgomaster and sheriff (Stadtrichter), and in addition to his official duties carried on the work of a farmer. He was educated at home by private tutors and subsequently at the gymnasiums of Friedland in Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and of Parchim. In 1831 he began to attend lectures on jurisprudence at the university of Rostock, and in the following year went to the university of Jena. Here he was a member of the political students' club, or German Burschenschaft, and in 1833 was arrested in Berlin by the Prussian government; although the only charge which could be proved against him was that he had been seen wearing its colours, he was condemned to death for high treason. This monstrous sentence was commuted by King Frederick William III. of Prussia to imprisonment for thirty years in a Prussian fortress. In 1838, through the personal intervention of the grand-duke of Mecklenburg, he was delivered over to the authorities of his native state, and the next two years he spent in the fortress of Dömitz, but in 1840 was set free, an amnesty having been proclaimed after the accession of Frederick William IV. to the Prussian throne.

Although Reuter was now thirty years of age, he went to Heidelberg to resume his legal studies; but he soon found it necessary to return to Stavenhagen, where he aided in the management of his father's farm. After his father's death, however, he abandoned farming, and in 1850 settled as a private tutor at the little town of Treptow in Pomerania. Here he married Luise Kunze, the daughter of a Mecklenburg pastor. Reuter's first publication was a collection of miscellanies, written in Plattdeutsch, and entitled Läuschen un Riemels (“anecdotes and rhymes,” 1853; a second collection followed in 1858). The book, which was received with encouraging favour, was followed by Polterabendgedichte (1855), and De Reis' nah Belligen (1855), the latter a humorous poem describing the adventures of some Mecklenburg peasants who resolve to go to Belgium (which they never reach) to learn the secrets of an advanced civilization. In 1856 Reuter left Treptow and established himself at Neubrandenburg, resolving to devote his whole time to literary work. His next book (published in 1858) was Kein Hüsung, an epic in which he presents with great force and vividness some of the least attractive aspects of village life in Mecklenburg. This was followed, in 1860, by Hanne Nüte un de lütte Pudel, the best of the works written by Reuter in verse. In 1861 Reuter's popularity was largely increased by Schurr-Murr, a collection of tales, some of which are in High German, but this work is of slight importance in comparison with the series of stories, entitled Olle Kamellen (“old stories of bygone days”). The first volume, published in 1860, contained Woans ick tau'ne Fru kam and Ut de Franzosentid. Ut mine Festungstid (1861) formed the second volume; Ut mine Stromtid (1864) the third, fourth and fifth volumes; and Dörchläuchting (1866) the sixth volume — all written in the Plattdeutsch dialect of the author's home. Woans ick tau 'ne Fru kam is a bright little tale, in which Reuter tells, in a half serious half bantering tone, how he wooed the lady who became his wife. In Ut de Franzosentid the scene is laid in and near Stavenhagen in the year 1813, and the characters of the story are associated with the great events which then stirred the heart of Germany to its depths. Ut mine Festungstid is of less general interest than Ut de Franzosentid, a narrative of Reuter's hardships during the term of his imprisonment, but it is not less vigorous either in conception or in style. Ut mine Stromtid is by far the greatest of Reuter's writings. The men and women he describes are the men and women he knew in the villages and farmhouses of Mecklenburg, and the circumstances in which he places them are the circumstances by which they were surrounded in actual life. As in Ut de Franzosentid he describes the deep national impulse in obedience to which Germany rose against Napoleon, so in Ut mine Stromtid he presents many aspects of the revolutionary movement of 1848.

In 1863 Reuter transferred his residence from Neubrandenburg to Eisenach; and here he died on the 12th of July 1874. In the works produced at Eisenach he did not maintain the high level of his earlier writings.

Reuter's Sämtliche Werke, in 13 vols., were first published in 1863-68. To these were added in 1875 two volumes of Nachgelassene Schriften, with a biography by A. Wilbrandt; and in 1878 two supplementary volumes to the works appeared. A popular edition in 7 vols. was published in 1877-78 (last edition, 1902); there are also editions by K. F. Müller (18 vols., 1905), and W. Seelmann (7 vols., 1905-6). See O. Glagau, F. Reuter und seine Dichtungen (1866; 2nd ed., 1875); H. Ebert, F. Reuter und seine Werke (1874); F. Latendorf, Zur Erinnerung an F. Reuter (1879); K. T. Gädertz, Reuter-Studien (1890); by the same, Aus Reuters alten und jungen Tagen (3 vols., 1894-1900); Briefe F. Reuters an seinen Vater, edited by F. Engel (2 vols., 1895); A. Römer, F. Reuter in seinem Leben und Schaffen (1895); G. Raatz, Wahrheit und Dichtung in Reuters Werken (1895); E. Brandes, Aus F. Reuters Leben (1899); K. F. Müller, Der Mecklenburger Volksmund und F. Reuters Schriften (1902). A complete bibliography of F. Reuter will be found in the Niederdeutsche Jahrbuch for 1896 and 1902.