Glossary

ETA Hoffmann


ETA Hoffmann

Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann was born in Königsberg, Prussia on January 24th, 1776. He was a German writer, composer, and painter who was influential in the romantic movement. Hoffmann is best known for his stories involving the supernatural where sinister characters move in and out of men's lives, ironically revealing the tragic or grotesque sides of human nature.

Son of a lawyer, Hoffmann was the product of a broken home. He was mainly raised by an uncle. He studied law and became a Prussian law officer in the Polish provinces in 1800. In 1806, Napoleon defeated Prussia and Hoffmann found himself without means. As a result, he turned to his main interest, music. Until 1814, he was a musical director, conductor, and critic. During this time he changed his third baptismal name, Wilhelm, to Amadeus in reverence for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In 1814, Hoffmann had a falling out with the manager of the theater in Dresden, where he was working at the time, and was forced to returned to law. He was appointed to the court of appeal in Berlin and in 1816 he became councilor. During this time he began to write.

Hoffmann was influenced by such authors as Adelbert von Chamisso; amongst his short stories was Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte in which Peter Schemihl sells his shadow to the devil. This work influenced Hoffmann's work Abentuer der Silvesternacht, in which Hoffmann includes the character Peter Schemihl.

Hoffmann wrote two novels, Die Elixiere des Teufels [The Devil's Elixir] written from 1815 to 1816), and Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr nebst fragmentarischer Biographie des Kapellmeisters Johannes Kreisler [The Life and Opinions of Kater Murr, with a Fragmentary Biography of Conductor Johannes Kreisler] written from 1820 to 1822. Hoffmann is best known for his short stories. He wrote more than 50 short stories during his life. Among his collections are Nachtstücke [Strange Stories] written in 1817, and Die Serapionsbrüder [The Serapion Brethren] written from 1819 to 1821.

Andersen knew and was influenced by Hoffmann's stories. Hoffmann used his imagination combining mysterious, sometimes macabre images with elements from the human psyche. This combination can sometimes be seen in Andersen's own works.

Hoffmann died from progressive paralysis in Berlin on June 25th, 1822.

For more information try the following websites:

Biography (English)
Biography (German)

S. Mellor

 

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