Page:Hoffmann's strange stories. From the German .. (IA hoffmannsstrange00hoff).pdf/9

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

HOFFMANN.


Models are no longer discussed, they are contemplated. The language belongs to the country that speaks it, but ideas belong to the whole human race. The language ought to be exclusive, absolute, faithful to the genius of the nation; but ideas ought to reach the greatest possible number of minds.

D. Nisard.

Ernest-Theodore-Wilhelm Hoffmann was born in Prussia at Kœnigsberg, the 21st of January, 1776. His father occupied for more than thirty-six years the office of attorney-general and commissioner at Insterberg. His mother was the daughter of the consistorial advocate Dœrfer, a man of rare merit, and who was long entrusted with the affairs of nearly all the noble families of Silesia. She was a woman of feeble health and of a sad and romantic imagination.

The childhood and youth of Hoffmann were passed at Kœnigsberg, with his serious parents and two personages worthy of interest on account of the strange contrast offered by their characters: a stiff old uncle, bombastic, systematic, like the baron who figures in the tale of Fascination; and a young aunt called Sophia, a graceful mischief-maker, whom he often likes to remember, but who died in the flower of her age—a type of grace and beauty, whose every feature is reproduced in the charming creation of Seraphine. Hoffmann likes to recall the remembrance of all the beings and all the objects that he has met with during his life. Having been born poor and dying indigent, he wore out his days in a series of monotonous occupations, and the capricious escapes which he allowed to his mind in the imaginary world.

On leaving the university, he had but one friend, Hippel, who remained his Pylades, his fidus Achates until the end. Rich,