Christoph Martin Wieland



Christoph Martin Wieland (September 5, 1733January 20, 1813), was a German poet and writer.

Biography

He was born at Oberholzheim (now part of the village of Achstetten, which then belonged to the Free Imperial City of Biberach an der Riss in the south-east of the modern-day state of Baden-Württemberg. His father, who was pastor in Oberholzheim and subsequently in Biberach, took great pains with his son's education. From the town school of Biberach he passed on at the age of twelve to the gymnasium at Klosterberge, near Magdeburg. He was a precocious child, and when he left school in 1749 was widely read in the Latin classics and the leading contemporary French writers; amongst German poets his favourites were Brockes and Klopstock.

During the summer of 1750, he fell in love with a cousin, Sophie Gutermann, and this love affair inspired him to plan his first ambitious work, Die Natur der Dinge (1752), a didactic poem in six books. In 1750 he went to the University of Tübingen as a student of law, but his time was mainly taken up with literary studies. The poems he wrote at the university--Hermann, an epic (published by F Muncker, 1886), Zwölf moralische Briefe in Versen (1752), Anti-Ovid (1752)--are pietistic in tone and dominated by the influence of Klopstock. They attracted the attention of the Swiss literary reformer, JJ Bodmer, who invited Wieland to visit him in Zürich in the summer of 1752. After a few months, however, Bodmer felt himself as little in sympathy with Wieland as, two years earlier, he had felt himself with Klopstock, and the friends parted; but Wieland remained in Switzerland until 1760, spending the last year, at Bern where he obtained a position as private tutor. Here he became intimate with Jean-Jacques Rousseau's friend Julie de Bondeli.

Wieland's tastes had changed; the writings of his early Swiss years--Der geprüfte Abraham (1753), Sympathien (1756), Empfindungen eines Christen (1757)--were still in the manner of his earlier writings, but with the tragedies, Lady Johanna Gray (1758), and Clementina von Porretta (1760)--the latter based on Samuel Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison--the epic fragment Cyrus (1759), and the "moral story in dialogues," Araspes und Panthea (1760), Wieland, as Gotthold Lessing said, "forsook the ethereal spheres to wander again among the sons of men."

Wieland's conversion was completed at Biberach, having returned in 1760 as director of the chancery. The monotony of his life here was relieved by the friendship of a Count Stadion, whose library in the castle of Warthausen, not far from Biberach, was well stocked with French and English literature. Wieland met again his early love Sophie Gutermann, who had become the wife of Hofrat La Roche, then manager of Count Stadion's estates. The former poet of an austere pietism now became the advocate of a light-hearted philosophy, from which frivolity and sensuality were not excluded. In Don Sylvia von Rosalva (1764), a romance in imitation of Don Quixote, he held up to ridicule his earlier faith and in the Comische Erzählungen (1765) he gave his extravagant imagination only too free a rein.

More important is the novel Geschichte des Agathon (1766-1767), in which, under the guise of a Greek fiction, Wieland described his own spiritual and intellectual growth. This work, which Lessing recommended as "a novel of classic taste," marks an epoch in the development of the modern psychological novel. Of equal importance was Wieland's translation of twenty-two of Shakespeare's plays into prose (8 vols., 1762-1766); it was the first attempt to present the English poet to the German people in something approaching entirety. With the poems Musarion oder die Philosophie der Grazien (1768), Idris (1768), Combabus (1770), Der neue Amadis (1771), Wieland opened the series of light and graceful romances in verse which appealed so irresistibly to his contemporaries and acted as an antidote to the sentimental excesses of the subsequent Sturm und Drang movement. Wieland married in 1765, and between 1769 and 1772 was professor of philosophy at Erfurt.

In 1772 he published Der goldene Spiegel oder die Könige van Scheschian, a pedagogic work in the form of oriental stories; this attracted the attention of Anna Amalia, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and resulted in his appointment as tutor to her two sons, future Grand Duke Karl August and Konstantin, at Weimar. With the exception of some years spent at Ossmannstedt, where in later life he bought an estate, Weimar remained Wieland's home until his death. Here, in 1773, he founded Der teutsche Merkur, which under his editorship (1773-1789) became the most influential literary review in Germany.

Of his later writings the most important are the admirable satire on German provinciality--the most attractive of all his prose writings--Die Abderiten, eine sehr wahrscheinliche Geschichte (1774), and the charming poetic romances, Das Wintermärchen (1776), Das Sommermärchen (1777), Geron der Adelige (1777), Pervonte oder die Wünsche (1778), a series culminating with Wieland's poetic masterpiece, the romantic epic of Oberon (1780). Although now old-fashioned, Oberon still has the power to charm. In Wieland's later novels, such as the Geheime Geschichte des Philosophen Peregrinus Proteus (1791) and Aristipp und einige seiner Zeitgenossen (1800-1802), a didactic and philosophic tendency obscures the small literary interest they possess. He also translated Horace's Satires (1786), Lucian's Works (1788-1789), Cicero's Letters (1808 ff.), and from 1796 to 1803 he edited the Attisches Museum which did valuable service in popularizing Greek studies. Wieland was also strongly influenced by the french fairy-tale vogue of the 18th century, he published a collection of tales entitled Dschinnistan (1786-1789), which included three original tales, 'Der Stein der Weisen' ('The Philosopher's Stone'), 'Timander und Melissa', and 'Der Druide oder die Salamanderin und die Bildsäule' ('The Druid or the Salamander and the Painted Pillar'). Typical of all these tales is the triumph of rationalism over mysticism.

Without creating a school in the strict sense of the term, Wieland had a strong influence on the German literature of his time. The verse-romance and the novel--more especially in Austria--benefited by his example, and even the Romanticism of a later date borrowed from him in its excursions into the literatures of southern Europe. The qualities which distinguish his work, his fluent style and light touch, his careless frivolity rather than poetic depth, show him to have been in literary temperament more akin to Ariosto and Voltaire than to the more spiritual and serious leaders of German poetry; but these very qualities in Wieland's poetry introduced a balancing element into German classical literature and added materially to its fullness and completeness. This is not to say, however, that Wieland is not to be counted among the great German poetic geniuses. Kant himself refers to Wieland in the same sentence as Homer, citing him as an example of Kant's idea of artistic genius. (Critique of Judgment, 5:309)

Editions

Wieland's Sämtliche Werke appeared in 1794-1802, 45 vols. Collections of Wieland's letters were edited by his son Ludwig (1815) and by H. Gessner (1815-1816); his Letters to Sophie Laroche by F. Horn (1820).

Later Editions of Wieland's Sämtliche Werke: 1818-1828, 53 vols., 1839-1840, 36 vols., and 1853-1858, 36 vols. Then 1879-1882 in 40 vols., edited by H. Düntzer. A new critical edition was started by the Prussian Academy. There are numerous editions of selected works, notably by Heinrich Pröhle in Kürschner's Deutsche Nationalliteratur (vols. 51-56, 1883-1887); by F. Muncker (6 vols., 1889); by W. Bolsche (4 vols., 1902).

Literature

  • J.G. Gruber, C.M. Wielands Leben (4 vols., 1827-1828);
  • H. Doring, C.M. Wieland (1853);
  • J.W. Loebell, C.M. Wieland (1858);
  • Heinrich Pröhle, Lessing, Wieland, Heinse (1877);
  • L.F. Ofterdinger, Wielands Leben und Wirken in Schwaben und in der Schweiz (1877);
  • R. Keil, Wieland und Reinhold (1885);
  • F. Thalmeyr, Über Wielands Klassizität, Sprache und SM (1894);
  • M. Doll, Wieland und die Antike (1896);
  • C.A. Behmer, Sterne und Wieland (1899);
  • W. Lenz, Wielands Verhältnis zu Spenser, Pope und Swift (1903);
  • L. Hirzel, Wielands Beziehungen zu den deutschen Romantikern (1904).
  • See also M. Koch's article in the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie (1897).
  • Jan Philipp Reemtsma: Das Buch vom Ich, Christoph Martin Wielands »Aristipp und einige seiner Zeitgenossen«, 1993.
  • Jan Philipp Reemtsma: Der Liebe Maskentanz. Aufsätze zum Werk Christoph Martin Wielands, 1999.

External links

References

[1]

Translation of Wieland's Oberon; Title-page of Adams' translation of Oberon as edited by A. B. Faust (New York, 1940) President John Quincy Adams translated Wieland's Oberon into English.
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