Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Gellert, Christian Fürchtegott
GELLERT, Christian Fürchtegott (1715-1769), German fabulist, hymn-writer, and moral philosopher, was born 4th July 1715 at Hainchen, in the Saxon Erzgebirge. He was educated at the university of Leipsic, where in 1751 he was appointed an extraordinary professor of philosophy, a position which he occupied till his death, 13th December 1769. He wrote a romance, Leben der schwed. Gräfin von G . . . (2 vols., Leipsic, 1746), of little value, and several pastorals and comedies of, if possible, even less. His best works were his Fabeln und Erzählungen and Geistliche Oden und Lieder. Both are marked by a simple and easy directness of style. The latter express the maxims of a liberal piety, and were received by Catholics and Protestants with equal favour. They are still widely popular in Germany. The best known is the hymn entitled “Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur.” Not a little of Gellert's fame is due to the time when he lived and wrote. The German literature of the period was dominated by the pedant Gottsched and his school. A band of high-spirited youths, of whom Gellert was one, resolved to free themselves from the conventional trammels of such dictators, and began that revolution which was finally consummated by Schiller and Goethe. Gellert's share in the attempt was enhanced by the excellence of his personal character, his gentle piety, and his singular knack of gaining the reverence and love of young people. Part of his influence was also doubtless attributable to his position as a professor, and to his widely popular lectures.
See Gellert's Sämmtliche Werke (first edition, 10 vols., Leipsic, 1769-74, last edition, Berlin, 1867). His Sämmtliche Fabeln und Erzählungen and his Geistliche Oden und Lieder have often been published separately; the latest editions being those of Leipsic, 1871, and Berlin, 1873. See translation by J. A. Murke, Gellert's Fables and other Poems (London, 1851). Lives of Gellert have been written by J. A. Cramer (Leipsic, 1774) and by Döring (2 vols., Leipsic, 1833).