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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Franz von Dingelstedt (1814–1881)

FRANZ VON DINGELSTEDT was born at Halsdorf, Hessen, Germany, June 30th, 1814. He attained eminence as a poet and dramatist, but his best powers were devoted to his principal calling as theatre director.

His boyhood’s education was received at Rinteln. At the University of Marburg he applied himself to theology and philology, but more especially to modern languages and literature. After leaving the university he became instructor at Ricklingen, near Hanover. He was characterized, even as a young man, by his political freedom and independence of thought; and at Cassel, where in 1836 he was teacher in the Lyceum, he was on this account looked upon so much askance that it was found expedient to transfer him to the gymnasium at Fulda (1838). He resigned this position, however, in order to devote himself to writing. A collection of his poems appeared in 1838–45, and of these, ‘Lieder eines Kosmopolitischen Nachtwächters’ (Songs of a Cosmopolitan Night-Watchman: 1841) may be said to have produced a genuine agitation. These were not only important as literature, but as political promulgations, boldly embodying the radical sentiments of freethinking Germany.

In 1841 he went to Augsburg, connected himself with the Allgemeine Zeitung, and traveled as newspaper correspondent in France, Holland, Belgium, and England. ‘Das Wanderbuch’ (The Wander-Book), and ‘Jusqu’ à la Mer—Erinnerungen aus Holland’ (As Far as the Sea—Remembrances of Holland: 1847), were the fruits of these journeys. He had in contemplation a voyage to the Orient, and preparatory to this he settled for a short time in Vienna; but the journey was not undertaken, for just at this time he was appointed librarian of the Royal Library of Stuttgart, and reader to the king, with the title of Court Councilor. Here in 1844 he married the celebrated singer Jenny Lutzer. He returned to Vienna, where in 1850 his drama ‘Das Haus der Barneveldt’ (The House of the Barneveldts) was produced with such brilliant success that he was thereupon appointed stage manager of the National Theatre at Munich. To this for six years he devoted his best efforts, presenting in the most admirable manner the finest of the German classics. The merit of his work was recognized by the king, who ennobled him in 1857. He was pre-eminently a theatrical manager, and served successively at Weimar (1857) and at Vienna, where he was appointed director of the Court Opera House in 1867, and of the Burg Theatre in 1870. He brought the classic plays of other lands upon the stage, and his revivals of Shakespeare’s historical plays and the ‘Winter’s Tale,’ and of Molière’s ‘L’Avare’ (The Miser), were brilliant events in the theatrical annals of Vienna. He was made Imperial Councilor by the Emperor, and raised in 1876 to the rank of baron. In 1875 he took the position of general director of both court theatres of Vienna. He died at Vienna, May 15th, 1881.

The novels ‘Licht und Schatten der Liebe’ (The Light and Shadow of Love: 1838); ‘Heptameron,’ 1841; and ‘Novellenbuch,’ 1855, were not wholly successful; but in contrast to these, ‘Unter der Erde’ (Under the Earth: 1840); ‘Sieben Friedliche Erzählungen’ (Seven Peaceful Tales: 1844), and ‘Die Amazone’ (The Amazon: 1868), are admirable.

Regarded purely as literature, Dingelstedt’s best productions are his early poems, although his commentaries upon Shakespeare and Goethe are wholly praiseworthy. He was successful chiefly as a political poet, but his muse sings also the joys of domestic life. ‘Hauslieder’ (Household Songs: 1844), and his poems upon Chamisso and Uhland, are among the most beautiful personal poems in German literature.