1902 Encyclopedia > Baron de la Motte Fouqué (Friedrich Heinrich Karl Fouqué)

Baron de la Motte Fouqué
(Friedrich Heinrich Karl Fouqué)
German author

FRIEDRICH HEINRICH KARL FOUQUE, BARON DE LA MOTTE FOUQUE, (1777-1843),oneof the most industrious and popular of German authors in the early part of this century, was born February 12,1777, at Brandenburg on the Havel. The family of De la Motte Fouque was, as the name suggests, of French extraction, but had been driven from France by the revocation of the edict of Nantes; and Fouque's grandfather, having entered the Prussian army, rose to the rank of general, and became the friend of Frederick the Great, Fouque's father, at one time an officer of dragoons, lived, at the date of the boy's birth, in retirement at Brandenburg ; and his mother, who died in 1788, was a daughter of the Hofmarschall von Schlegell of Dessau. The little Friedrich, godson and namesake of the great king, was brought up in the neighbourhood of Potsdam, first at his father's estate Sacro, and afterwards at Lentzke, a property to which they removed when he was nine years old. An only child, he was educated at home by a succession of tutors, one of whom, the author August Hiilse, did much to encourage the boy's literary tastes. The somewhat monotonous home life, also, was relieved by holidays spent with relations in a romantic old castle near Halle, and by brilliant visits to Potsdam, whence he came with his little head turned by glimpses of the revered king, by blasts of military music and the tramp of soldiers. When the French Revolution broke out, the young Fouque eagerly espoused the cause of the royal family. He became discontented wdth the prospect of studying law at the university of Halle, and in 1794 entered the army as uber-completer Cornet in the grand-duke of Weimar's cuirassier regiment, then in the field. At the age of nineteen he served in the unfortunate campaign of the Rhine; and for several years afterwards he led a half military half literary life with his regiment, whose headquarters were first at Aschersleben and then at Büekeburg.

Fouque married very early in life ; but the union was an unhappy one, and ended in divorce. In 1802, when still only twenty-five, he married his second wife, the widowed Frau von Rochow, better known as Caroline, Baroness de la Motte Fouque, herself an authoress of some note; and, having obtained his discharge from military service, he retired to his wife's family estate of Nennhausen, near Rathenau, devoting himself to the study of Italian and Spanish, and to bringing out his first work Dramatische Spiele, under the feigned name of Pellegrin (1804). The volume was published by the brothers Schlegel, and their names were enough to win popularity for what Fouque' himself afterwards called a "Schülerwerk." It was followed by Romanzen aus dem Thal Ronceval, and by two plays, the Falk and the Reh, which appeared simultaneously. Cheered by praise from the brothers Schlegel, Fouque set to work with renewed vigour, and in 1806 published a metrical rendering of an old prose romance, the Historie vom edlen Ritter Galmy, und einer schönen Herzogin von Bretagne. In the same year appeared the poem Schiller's Todtenfeier, the joint work of Bernhardi and Fouque, who still wrote under the name of Pellegrin ; and in 1808 he published Alwin, a romance in 2 vols. This won for him many literary admirers, perhaps the chief of whom was Jean Paul Friedrich Richter. Sigurd der Schlangentödter (published 1808) was founded on the story of the Niebelungenlied, and formed the first of a collection which appeared in 1818 under the title Heldenspiele. Sigurd was the first work published in Fouque's own name. In 1811 appeared a play, Eginhard und Emma, two volumes entitled Vaterländische Schauspiele, and the chivalric romance Der Zauberring. Conjointly with Frau von Helvig of Heidelberg he issued a Taschenbuch der Sagen und Legen-den (1812-13), and with his friend Wilhelm Neumann began a periodical called Die Musen (1812-14). An-other collection of plays, Schauspiele für Preussen, was published in 1813, and in 1814 Corona, a poem, and Der Todesbund, a romance, forming the first of a series in six separate volumes entitled Kleine Romane (1814-19). In the same year (1814) he published a series in four parts entitled the Jahreszeiten, the spring number of which contained his romance Undine, the summer number Die beiden Hauptleute, the autumn number Aslauga's Ritter and Aigin und Jucunda, and the winter number Sintram und seine Gefährten. Die Fahrten Thiodolfs des Isländers, another story of chivalry, appeared in 1814, and was considered by Fouque himself to be one of his most successful works. In 1816 he translated a tragedy, Numancia, from the Spanish of Cervantes, and published also Des Sängers Liebe, Karl's des Grossen Geburt und Jugendjahre, and a tragedy called the Pilgerfahrt. Meanwhile, in February 1813, he had rejoined the army as lieutenant of cavalry, and twice narrowly escaped with his life at the battle of Lützen. After the battle, while he was carrying an im-portant dispatch over country at night, his horse stumbled into deep water; and this misadventure resulted in an illness which disabled him for further service. He received an honourable discharge, was presented with the decoration of the " Johanniterorden," and promoted to the rank of major of cavalry. The invalided soldier now returned to his wife and daughter at Nennhausen, and again took up his pen. His wife died in 1831; and, having removed to Halle, he married there for the third time. He delivered lectures in Halle on the history of poetry and other forms of literature, and had gone to Berlin with the purpose of lecturing there also, when he died suddenly, January 23, 1843- aged 66.
The following is a list of his publications from 1817 downwards :

—Die Wunderbaren Fahrten des Grafen Alethes von Lindenstein (1817); Altsächsischer Bildersaal(1818-20); Der Mord Augusts von Kotzebue: Freundesruf an Deutschlands Jugend (1819); Bertranddu Guesclin (1821) ; Hieronymus von Stauf (1821) ; Der Verfolgte, Wilde Liebe, and Ritter Elidone (1822); Réfugié, oder Heimath und Fremde; ein Roman aus der neuen Zeit (l824); Lebensbeschreibungen des K'önigl. Freuss. Generals der Infanterie, H. A. Baron de la Motte Fouqué (1824); a collection of his poems in 5 vols., containing most of his lyrics and dramas (1816-27); Geschichte der Jung-frau von Orleans (1826) ; Der Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg (1828)" General v. Büchel, eine militärische Biographie (1828); Fata Mor-gana (1830) ; Erzählungen u. Novellen (1833) ; Die Weltreiche (1835-40) ; Büchlein von der Liebeslehre (1837) ; Der Pappenheimer Cuirassier (1842) ; Lebensgeschichte des Baron Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, aufgezeichnet durch ihn selbst (1840); Goethe und Einer seiner Bewunderer (1840) ; Ausgewählte Werke des Baron Fr. de la Motte Fouqué, Ausgabe letzter Hand (1841). A posthumous romance, entitled Abfall und Busse, oder die Seelenspiegel, — ein Roman aus der Grenzseheide des 18 und 19 Jahrh., was published in 1844 ; also a collection entitled Geistliche Gedichte (1858), and Christlicher Liederschatz (1862).

Fouqué's popularity was great ; but he had the mis-fortune to outlive it. A disciple of the brothers Schlegel and the Romance School in Germany, he became one of its most illustrious representatives. There was a time when Fouqué's volumes were in every German household, and people waited eagerly at the libraries for his newest work. But he lived to see the change in literary taste which shelved the romance school, and with it almost all his own writings. The greater part of these are being now quickly forgotten. Those which have survived, and will survive, the varia-tions of popular taste, are his romances—the Zauberring and the contents of the Jahreszeiten, especially the ex-quisite Undine, which has always been considered his masterpiece. Fouqué's was not an intellect of the very highest order, neither was he a man of intense feelings ; and those who expect to find in his works deep thinking or highly-wrought passion will be disappointed. Should they, however, desire the graceful, the romantic, the exquisite, it is there in abundance. They will find a beauty and simplicity of style unsurpassed in the German lan-guage ; plots, light and airy, laid in scenes of opal hue. For Fouqué aimed at ethereal beauty, delighted in word-painting, and flitted continually between the glories of a crimson Spanish sunset and the cold steel-blue of a north German nightfall. There is in his works plenty of sweet pathos, of a kind which may wet the eye but never wrings the heart ; there is also a truly German love of the weird and supernatural ; but their especial characteristic is their pure, chivalric tone :—"An ideal of Christian knighthood," says the translator of Wilhelm Meister, in his German Romance, " whencesoever borrowed or derived, has all along, with more or less distinctness, hovered round his fancy," It is in allusion to this same characteristic that Jean Paul Richter, Fouqué's illustrious critic in the Heidelberger Jahrbücher, has christened him "Der Tapfere," or " The Valiant."

Of Fouque's works, the Undine, the Zauberring, Aslauga's Ritter, and Sintram have been translated into English. The translation of Aslauga's Ritter is in Carlyle's German Romance. (F. M. )

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