Christoph Martin Wieland

Christoph Martin Wieland

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

1805 portrait of Christoph Martin Wieland by Ferdinand Carl Christian Jagemann



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 Kloster Berge gymnasium, 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 (The Nature of Things, 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 (Twelve Moral Letters in Verse, 1752), Anti-Ovid (1752) — are pietistic in tone and dominated by the influence of Klopstock. They attracted the attention of the Swiss literary reformer, J. J. 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.

Birthplace of Christoph Martin Wieland in Oberholzheim

Wieland's tastes had changed; the writings of his early Swiss years — Der geprüfte Abraham (The Trial of Abraham's Faith, 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. Wieland spend many evenings at the well known Wieland Family guest house and tavern "Sonne Post" in Neuhuetten. Here in the quiet guest house gardens 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, the Duke Karl August and his brother 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 (A very probable history of the Abderites, 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). Wieland influenced the American author Charles Brockden Brown whose novel Wieland or The Transformation: an American Tale has relatives of Christoph Martin Wieland as main characters.


Wieland's Sämtliche Werke ("complete works") 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 in 1909, of which 22 volumes were published by 1963. 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).


  • J.G. Gruber, C.M. Wielands Leben (4 vols., 1827–1828);
  • Heinrich 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

Quotations related to Christoph Martin Wieland at Wikiquote Media related to Christoph Martin Wieland at Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Christoph Martin Wieland — Portrait de F. C. C. Jagemann, 1805. Activités Éditeur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Christoph Martin Wieland — Porträt Wielands von Ferdinand Jagemann, 1805 Christoph Martin Wieland (* 5. September 1733 in Oberholzheim bei Laupheim; † 20. Januar 1813 in Weimar) war ein deutscher Dichter, Übersetzer un …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Christoph Martin Wieland — Retrato de Wieland por F.C.C. Jagemann, 1805 Christoph Martin Wieland ( * 5 de septiembre de 1733 – 20 de enero de 1813), fue un poeta, escritor, traductor y editor alemán. Biogra …   Wikipedia Español

  • Christoph-Martin-Wieland-Übersetzerpreis — Burkhart Kroeber nach der Verleihung des Christoph Martin Wieland Übersetzerpreises mit der Präsidentin des Freundeskreises für die Förderung literarischer und wissenschaftlicher Übersetzungen e.V., Frau Susanne Höbel (links) und der Laudatorin,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Christoph-Martin-Wieland-Preis — Der Christoph Martin Wieland Preis ist ein deutscher Literaturpreis, der alle zwei Jahre (im September) in der Wielandstadt Biberach an der Riß für herausragende Übersetzungen verliehen wird. Er knüpft an Christoph Martin Wieland an, der als… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Wieland, Christoph Martin — Wieland, Christoph Martin. Vom »Oberon« hat wohl Jedermann einmal sprechen hören. Wer aber diesen auch nur oberflächlich, oder vom Hörensagen kennt, dem muß der Name W. angenehm klingen. W., durch dessen vielverzweigte Wirksamkeit der deutsche… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Wieland, Christoph Martin — ▪ German poet born Sept. 5, 1733, Oberholzheim, near Biberach [Germany] died Jan. 20, 1813, Weimar, Saxe Weimar       poet and man of letters of the German Rococo period whose work spans the major trends of his age, from rationalism and the… …   Universalium

  • Wieland, Christoph Martin — ► (1733 1813) Poeta y literato alemán. Atacó las costumbres del siglo con un intento de superación. Autor del poema Oberón (1780) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • WIELAND, CHRISTOPH MARTIN —    eminent German littérateur, born near Biberach, a small village in Swabia, son of a pastor of the pietist school; studied at Tübingen; became professor of Philosophy at Erfurt, and settled in Weimar in 1772 as tutor to the two sons of the… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Wieland-Gymnasium — Schultyp Gymnasium Ort Biberach an der Riß Bundesland Baden Württemberg Koordinaten …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”