1902 Encyclopedia > Johann Heinrich Jung (Heinrich Stilling)

Johann Heinrich Jung
(best known as: Heinrich Stilling)
Charcoal burner, tailor, schoolmaster, oculist, political scientist and mystic
(1740-1817)




JOHANN HEINRICH JUNG, (1740-1817), best known by his assumed name of HEINRICH STILLING, charcoal-burner, tailor, village schoolmaster, oculist, professor of political science, and mystic, was born in the village of Grand in the duchy of Nassau on the 12th September 1740. His j father, Wilhelm Jung, schoolmaster and tailor, was the son of Eberhard Jung, charcoal-burner, and his mother was Dortchen or Dorothy Moritz, daughter of a poor clergyman. In the best of his books Stilling gives a charming descrip-tion of the patriarchal simplicity of his home, and draws the portrait of his grandfather especially with a loving and skilful hand. Stilling became, by his father's desire, school-master and sailor, but " to be always sitting at the needle and maKng clothes for people was highly repugnant to me," a'.d " to be everlastingly instructing boys and girls in ABC" was equally wearisome. Severe home discipline mb.de Stilling glad to accept an appointment as school-master in a neighbouring village, where, however, he taught not with pleasure but from a sense of duty. He afterwards became tutor in the family of a merchant, and in 1768 went with " half a French dollar," as he himself tells us, to study medicine at the university of Strasburg. What he wanted in money he possessed in confidence in Divine aid; and in after life he was wont to refute sceptical adversaries by recounting the many occasions on which his prayers were answered byprovidential messengers, for so he regarded them, who in the most unexpected way provided him with the money necessary not only for his studies but for his very existence. At Strasburg he met Goethe, who showed him much kindness, and introduced him to Herder. The acquaintance with Goethe ripened into friendship; and it was by his influence that Stilling's first and best work, The Account of his Youth, was in 1777 given to the world. In 1772 he settled at Elberfeld as physician and oculist, and soon became celebrated for operations in cases of cataract. Surgery, however, was not much more to his taste than tailoring or teaching; and in 1778 he was glad to accept the appointment of lecturer on "agriculture, technology, commerce, and the veterinary art" (!) in the newly established academy at Kaiserslautern. In 1784 the academy was transferred to Heidelberg and united with the university. In 1786, on the occasion of the anniversary of the fourth centenary of Heidelberg univer-sity, Stilling created immense enthusiasm by delivering his speech, the last of the day, in German. The other professors had used Latin. In 1787 Stilling was appointed professor of economical, financial, and statistical science in the university of Marburg. In 1803 he resigned his pro-fessorship and returned to Heidelberg, where he remained with no official appointment until 1806. In that year he received a pension from the grand-duke Charles Frederick of Baden, and removed to Carlsruhe, where he remained until his death on the 2d April 1817. He was married three times, and left a numerous family. Of his engage-ment to his first wife he tells a most amusing story in his autobiography. Of his works this autobiography Heinrich Stillings Leben, from which he came to be known as Stilling, is the only one now of any interest, and, with the supple-ment by his son-in-law Dr Schwarz, is the chief authority for his life. A believer in dreams and apparitions, he was superstitious rather than mystical. His piety was fervent, but not austere ; and his chief delight was in seeing others happy. Modest and affable, he endeared himself to all who came in contact with him. He hated nothing except sects, which, he says, are due merely to pride under the mask of piety. He numbered among his many friends Goethe and Kant and Lavater, the first of whom pays him high tribute in the second part of Aus meinem Leben.

A complete edition of his numerous works, in 14 vols. 8vo, was published at Stuttgart in 1835-38. There are English translations by Sam. Jackson of the Leben, London, 1835, and of the Theorie der Geisterlcnnde, London, 1834, and New York, 1851; and of Theobald, or the Fanatic, a religious romance, by the Rev. Sam. Schaeffer, Philadelphia, 1846.








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