The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Chamisso, Adelbert de
CHAMISSO, shä-mēs'sō, Adelbert de (properly Louis Charles Adelaide de Chamisso de Boncourt), German poet and naturalist: b. at the castle of Boncourt, Champagne, 27 Jan. 1781; d. Berlin, 21 Aug. 1838. When a boy his family were driven by the breaking out of the Revolution to seek an asylum in Berlin. On the Peace of Tilsit he returned with his family to France, and in 1810 was appointed professor in the Lyceum of Napoleonsville; but shortly after returned to Prussia, and during three years devoted himself enthusiastically to the study of natural science at Berlin. Count Romanzoff having in 1815 fitted out a vessel, under the command of Otto von Kotzebue, for the discovery of the northwest passage, Chamisso accepted the appointment of naturalist to the expedition, and added greatly to his store of scientific knowledge. He afterward took up his residence at Berlin, was appointed superintendent of the botanic garden and received the diploma of doctor from the university for the collections in natural history which he had presented to the museum. His abilities as a naturalist are displayed in his work ‘De Animalibus quibusdam e Classe Vermium Linnæi’ (1819); and his ‘View of the Most Useful and the Most Noxious Plants of North Germany, with Remarks on Scientific Botany.’ In 1827, partly for the purpose of rebutting the charges brought against him by Kotzebue, he published ‘Views and Remarks on a Voyage of Discovery,’ and ‘Description of a Voyage Round the World.’ Both works display great accuracy and industry. His last scientific labor was a tract on the ‘Language of Owyhee.’ His reputation as a naturalist has been somewhat eclipsed by that which he acquired as a poet. As early as 1804-06 he, in concert with Varnhagen von Ense, published a collection of poems, under the name of the ‘Muses' Almanac’; and in 1813 appeared his celebrated and most original tale, ‘Peter Schlemihl,’ which has been translated, among other languages, into English, and admirably illustrated by Cruikshank. His poetry is marked by vigor, correctness and a thorough command of the German language; but is in general of a gloomy and terrific cast. He is the author, however, of several humorous pieces; and his political poems are distinguished by caustic, yet wholesome, raillery. Many of his ballads and songs are masterpieces of their kind. (See Peter Schlemihl's wundersame Geschichte). Consult Geiger, ‘Aus Chamissos Frühlingzeit’ (Berlin 1905); Hitzig, ‘Leben und Brief von A. von Chamisso’ (1839); Fulda, ‘Chamisso unde seine Zeit’ (Leipzig 1881); Kossmann, ‘Der deutsche Musenalmanach, 1833-39’ (The Hague 1909); Raymond, ‘A von Chamisso als Naturfoscher’ (ib. 1889).