The New International Encyclopædia/Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Amadeus
HOFFMANN, Ernst Theodor Amadeus (originally Wilhelm) (1776-1822). An eccentric German romantic novelist of cosmopolitan reputation and influence, born at Königsberg. His foremost characteristic is his wayward yet keen fancy, suggesting at once Hawthorne and Poe. He dealt by preference with the grotesque, startling, and marvelous, until toward the close of his life morbidity verged on madness. After a joyless childhood, he prepared for the law, let his wit run away with his prudence in some witty caricatures, and finding his career thus blocked. suffered from penury and dissipation. He eked out a living by scene and portrait painting and musical composition and criticism in Posen, Warsaw, Bamberg, Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin, where in 1816 he became councilor of the Court of Appeals. For short intervals he was manager and musical director also. His first book was a collection of musical criticisms with illustrations, Phantasiestücke in Callots Manier (1814). In 1816 appeared Die Elixire des Teufels, which, with Lebensansichten des Katers Murr (1820-22), is the most famous of his works. Other noteworthy volumes are Die Serapionsbrüder (1819-21) and Nachtstücke (1817). All are alike characterized by a lyric swing and an erratic imagination that is mentally disquieting and yet blended with shrewd satire, wit, and even wisdom. He died of disease induced by dissipation, his mind at times clear, and clinging tenaciously to a life that ebbed inch by inch away. Hoffmann's Works are in fifteen volumes (1879-83). Of the more popular, there are many editions. The Elixire des Teufels has been translated into English (1824), also Der goldene Topf (The Golden Pot), one of the Phantasiestücke, by Carlyle in his German Romance (Edinburgh, 1827), with a biographical sketch. Other translations are by Gillies (London, 1826); Bealby, (New York, 1885); and Ewing (London, 1886). Consult: Hitzig, Hoffmanns Leben und Nachlass (Stuttgart, 1839), and Erinnerungen, by Funck (Leipzig, 1836).