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OTTO LUDWIG (1813-1865)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 114 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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OTTO LUDWIG (1813-1865), German dramatist, novelist and critic, was born at Eisfeld in Thuringia, on the 11th of February 1813. His father, who was syndic of Eisfeld, died when the boy was twelve years old, and he was brought up amidst uncongenial conditions. He had devoted his leisure to poetry and music, which unfitted him for the mercantile career planned for him. The attention of the duke of Meiningen was directed to one of his musical compositions, an opera, Die Kohlerin, and Ludwig was enabled in 1839 to continue his musical studies under Mendelssohn in Leipzig. But ill-health and constitutional shyness caused him to give up a musical career, and he turned exclusively to literary studies, and wrote several stories and dramas. Of the latter, Der Erbforster (185o) attracted immediate attention as a masterly psychological study. It was followed by Die Makkabaer (1852), in which the realistic method of Der Erbforster was transferred to an historical milieu, which allowed more brilliant colouring and a freer play of the imagination. With these tragedies, to which may be added Die Rechte des Herzens and DasFraulein von Scuderi, the comedy Hans Frey, and an unfinished tragedy on the subject of Agnes Bernauer, Ludwig ranks immediately after Hebbel as Germany's most notable dramatic poet at the middle of the 19th century. Meanwhile he had married and settled permanently in Dresden, where he turned his attention to fiction. He published a series of admirable stories of Thuringian life, characterized by the same attention to minute detail and careful psychological analysis as his dramas. The best of these are Die Heiteretei and ihr Widerspiel (1851), and Ludwig's masterpiece, the powerful novel, Zwischen Himmel and Erde (1855). In his Shakespeare-Studien (not published until 1891) Ludwig showed himself a discriminating critic, with a fine insight into the hidden springs of the creative imagination. So great, however, was his enthusiasm for Shakespeare, that he was led to depreciate Schiller in a way which found little favour among his countrymen. He died at Dresden on the 25th of February 1865. Ludwig's Gesammelte Schriften were published by A. Stern and E. Schmidt in 6 vols. (1891–1892) ; also by A. Bartels (6 vols., 1900). See A. Stern, Otto Ludwig, ern Dicttterleben (1891; and ed., 1906), and A. Sauer, Otto Ludwig (1893).
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