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JOHANN PAUL FRIEDRICH RICHTER (1763–1...

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Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 314 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHANN PAUL FRIEDRICH RICHTER (1763–1825), usually called JEAN PAUL, famous German humorist, was born at Wunsiedel, in Bavaria, on the 21st of March 1763. His father was a schoolmaster and organist at Wunsiedel, but in 1765 he became a pastor at Joditz near Hof, and in 1776 at Schwarzenbach, where he died in 1779. After attending the gymsnasium at Hof, Richter went in 1781 to the university of Leipzig. His original intention was to enter his father's profession, but theology did not interest him, and he soon devoted himself wholly to the study of literature. Unable to maintain himself at Leipzig he returned in 1784 to Hof, where he lived with his mother. From 1787 to 1789 he served as a tutor at 'Ripen, a village near Hof; and afterwards he taught the children of several families at Schwarzenbach. Richter began his career as a man of letters with Gronlandische Prozesse and Auswahl aus des Teufels Papieren, the former of which was issued in 1783–84, the latter in 1789. These works were not received with much favour, and in later life Richter himself had little sympathy with their satirical tone. His next book, Die unsichtbare Loge, a romance, published in 1793, had all the qualities which were soon to make him famous, and its power was immediately recognized by some of the best critics of the day. Encouraged by the reception of Die unsichtbare Loge, he sent forth in rapid succession Hesperus (1795), Biographische Belustigungen unter der Gehirnschale einer Riesin (1796), Leben des Quintus Fixlein (1796), Blumen- Frucht- and Dornenstilcke, oder Ehestand, Tod and Hochzeit des Armenadvokaten Siebenkds (1796–97), Der Jubelsenior (1797), and Das Kampaner Tal (1797). This series of writings won for Richter an assured place in German literature, and during the rest of his life every work he produced was welcomed by a wide circle of admirers.1825. Schiller said of Richter that he would have been worthy of admiration" if he had made as good use of his riches as other men made of their poverty." And it is true that in the form of his writings he never did full justice to his great powers. In working out his conceptions he found it impossible to restrain the expression of any powerful feeling by which he might happen to be moved. He was equally unable to resist the temptation to bring in strange facts or notions which occurred to him. Hence every one of his works is irregular in structure, and his style lacks directness, precision and grace. But his imagination was one of extraordinary fertility, and he had a surprising power of suggesting great thoughts by means of the simplest incidents and relations. The love of nature was one of Richter's deepest pleasures; his expressions of religious feelings are also marked by a truly poetic spirit, for to Richter visible things were but the symbols of the invisible, and in the unseen realities alone he found elements which seemed to him to give significance and dignity to human life. His humour, the most distinctive of his qualities, cannot be dissociated from the other characteristics of his writings. It mingled with all his thoughts, and to some extent determined the form in which he embodied even his most serious reflections. That it is some-times extravagant and grotesque cannot be disputed, but it is never harsh nor vulgar, and generally it springs naturally from the perception of the incongruity between ordinary facts and ideal laws. Richter's personality was deep and many-sided; with all his wilfulness and eccentricity he was a man of a pure and sensitive spirit, with a passionate scorn for pretence and an ardent enthusiasm for truth and goodness. Richter's Sdmtliche Werke appeared in 1826-28 in 6o vols., to which were added 5 vols ofLiterarischer Nachlass in 1836—38 a second edition was published in 1840—42 (33 vols.) ; a third in 186o-62 (34 vols.). The last complete edition is that edited by R. Gottschall (6o parts, 1879). Editions of selected works appeared in 16 vols. (1865), in Kiirschner's Deutsche Nationalliteratur (edited by P. Nerrlich, 6 vols., 1884-87), &c. The chief collections of Richter's correspondence are: Jean Pauls Briefe an F. H. Jacobi (1828) ; Briefwechsel Jean Pauls mit seinem Freunde C. Otto (1829-33) ; Briefwechsel =vise/ten H. Voss and Jean Paul (1833) ; Briefe an eine Jugendfreundin (1858) ; P. Nerrlich, Jean Pauls Briefwechsel mit seiner Frau and seinem Freunde Otto (1902). See further the continuation of Richter's autobiography by C. Otto and E. Forster (1826-33); H. During, J. P. F. Richters Leben and Charakteristik (1830-32); R. O. Spazier, J. P. F. Richter: ein biographischer Kommentar zu dtssen Werken (5 vols., 1833): E. Forster, Denkunirdigkeiten aus dem Legen von J. P. F. Richter (1863); P. Nerrlich, Jean Paul and seine Zeitgenossen (1876) ; J. Firmery, Etude sur la vie et les oeuvres de J. P. F. Richter (1886) ; P. Nerrlich, Jean Paul, sein Leben and seine Werke (1889) ; F. J. Schneider, Jean Pauls Altersdichtung (1901); by the same, Jean Pauls Jugend and erstes Auftreten in der Literatur (1906). All Richter's more important works have been translated into English, Quintus Fixlein and Schmelzles Reise, by Carlyle; see also Carlyle's two admirable essays on Richter.
End of Article: JOHANN PAUL FRIEDRICH RICHTER (1763–1825)
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