Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann
There is nothing more marvelous or madder
than real life.
Like many Romantics, Hoffmann was educated
in law. His interests lay elsewhere; as he drew caricatures
of the officials he worked with, he pronounced an affinity
for drawing. Yet he pursued music and literature as well
as art. His devotion to music was characterized by such
passion that he changed his third name, Wilhelm, to Amadeus
out of respect for Mozart. He started his life as a composer
and music critic in Bamberg, where he composed opera and
various works of music. After the French invasion, he became
a musical director and music teacher in Berlin. In 1816,
he was appointed a position in the Supreme Court. Although
he was a success in music, his talents carried him further.
His writings, which were primarily bizarre and grotesque
tales of Gothicism, have had a profound influence on all
things Romantic, surreal, supernatural, and Gothic. The
themes of the dopplegänger and reality versus the supernatural
were initiated by him. He inspired two ballets, Coppélia
and the Nutcracker, and through his mad kappellmeister
Kreisleriana, he inspired Schumann. His influence
spread as far as the United States, to Hawthorne, Poe, and
Irving. His split personality, which would figure as a common
theme in many of his tales, allowed him to be a stately
court official by day, and a deranged novelist by night.
However, his love for drawing caricatures of court officials
was never satisfied. He narrowly escaped persecution for
such unseemly conduct through his untimely death due to
his excessive lifestyle.
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"Hoffmann, E.T.A.," The Columbia
Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright © 2001 Columbia