From Bamberg to Berlin

1813: Director of music at the theatre Joseph Secondas (Dresden+Leipzig); experience the battle of Dresden and the siege of Napoleons troops

1814: break with Seconda; reentry into civil cervice at the chamber court in Berlin

1815: New apartment in the Taubenstreet 31(near Gedarmenmarkt); stories for paperbacks and alanacs; „Fantasiestücke“ in Callot´s Manier (1814/1815) at Kunz in Bamberg

1816: Appointment as a real member oft he criminal senate at the court of appeal in salary; „Elixir des Teufels“ (1815/1816); world premier of „Oper Undine“ at the playhouse at the King`s birthday (3.8.)

1817: brand oft he playhouse after 13 performances of „Undine“; „Nachtstücke“ (1816/1817); frequent visits in wine house (Lutter+Wegner)

1818: serious illness; foundation of the literary circle „Die Serapionsbrüder“

1819: Appointment by the King Hoffmann as a member of an „immediate investigation commission“ for the investigation of highly traitorous connections; expert opinion of Hoffmann on the release of imprisioned demagouges; conflict with the government

1820: „Prinzessin Brambilla“

1821: Promotion to the upper-appellate-senate „Serapionsbrüder“ (1819-1821); „Lebensansichten des Kater Murr“ (1819-1821); manuscript of „Meister Floh“ to publisher Wilmans

1822: beginning of fatal diseasis; confiscation oft he manuscript of „Meister Floh“ by the prussian government; request oft he police director of Kamptz to prosecute Hoffmann for betraying official secret and criticism of other demagogue prosecution; dictate if the conclusion of „Meister Floh“ as well as „des Vetters Eckfenster“ and „der Feind“

25.6.1822 Death

„I couldn`t find myself again.“ Novels of the berlin period

  • „die Elixiere des Teufels“

The two-volume novel is from 1815 and 1816

Hoffmann about his book: It`s the intention to show the curly and wonderful life of a man who was already ruled by demonic powers at his birth

  • In this psychological novel human actions and thoughts are presented. A series of crime surrounds the monk medarus and his double. Descriptions of madness, the role of ego-identity and personality splitting contribute to a shocking atmosphere
  • The monk medarus: my own self, becoming the cruel play of a capricious coincidence and melting into strange shapes, swam without hold in a sea of events that brewed upon me like raging waves- I could not find myself again. Then suddenly a naked human rose up to his hips from the deep and stared at me in a ghostly way. The full light fell on his face-I recognized myself. My sence passed away.
  • „Lebensansichten des Kater Murr“ (published by E.T.A. Hoffmann togehter with a biography of Johann Kreisler)

The hero, a clever animal cut out of of his own species, learns how to write and read, writes an autobiography. He uses sheets from Johannes Kestler`s biography as a  writing paper, that in the novel the life story of Murr is broken by fragments of Cryslers life.

The whole novel can be read as a parody oft he educational novel which Wieland, Moritz, Goethe and Tieck have indroduced into german literature. This also calls into question the idea of a meaningful self-discovery of the ego.

Murr about himself: with security and tranquility which the true genius owns, i give my biography to  the world. So that it may learn how to form itself into a great cat, my excellence in its entirity love me, value, honour, admire and worship a little. If anyone should be bold enough to want to raise a view doubts against the value of the etraordinary book, he may consider that he is dealing with a cat which processes spirit, understanding and sharp claws.


Hoffmann`s work in criticism

  • „Fantasiestücke in Callot`s Manier“ as a successful literary debut.

The boldest fantasy, with risky combinations as only the dream can create it, playing in ghostly vitality

  • Goethe: In aggrevation of the polemics of Walter Scott: They are not the visions of a poetic spirit, they hardly have much apparent content as would at best be granted to infirmities of a monotonous person. They are feverish dreams of a light-hearted sick spirit.
  • Heinrich Heine: Hoffmann saw ghosts everywhere, they noddet at him from every chinese teapot and every berlin wig. He was like a wizard who turned people into beasts an even into royal prussian court councils. He was able to come out of the graves but life pushed him from himself as a cloudy spook and his works are nothing but an era of fear in 20 volumes.
  • Stefan Zweig: Unearthly world formed of smoke and dream, fantastic in the figures this is Hoffmann’s world.
  • The worlds literary after-effect: Mainly from France the first complete edition in 20 volumes is published. The great narrators of the 19th century create themes of it’s work. The german narrator has become important for Edgar Allan Poe, Fjodor Dostojewskij and Nicolaj Gogol. Jacques Offenbachs opera „Les contes d’Hoffmann“ contributes to the popularity as well as Peter Tschaikowskj’s „Nussknacker-Suite“. In Germany Schumann, Wagner, Busoni and Hindemith have worked on Hofmann’s themes. However, a broader readership found its way into the germans-speaking world since the beginning of the 20th century. After 1945, the literature began a rich confrontation with Hoffmann`s work. Seghers, Wolf, Schädlich, Kühn, Mensching, Henisch, Schneider, Kirchhoff, Härding and last but not least Wolfschläger. Today there are translations of Hoffmann`s work in many languages.


The skeptical jurist.

  • Reluctant to return government service: After the failure of an artistic career in Bamberg and Dresden Hoffmann returned with great doubt to the government service.
  • „I can`t let go of art anymore, and if I didn’t have to take care of a sweet-hearted woman and give her a comfortable position after what she didn’t liked with me, I’d rather do the musical school master again than let myself trill in the legal fulling mill“ (Letter 12.03.1815 to Hippel)
  • „… so also my disgust at a business which, as it is now run, can only arise this pleasure and boredom. Remember, dearest friend, that it was never my idea to return to justice because the art I swore to is too deceived…“(Letter 28.04.1815 to Hippel)
  • Conciesely administration-bizarr fantasy.
  • „… he has completly satisfied the expectations (…). The peculiar presicion with which he works does not harm the thoroughness…“(Fr.V.Trützschler and Falkeisen Vicepresident of the supreme court 24.12.1815)
  • “…and the exuberant fantasy going into strange, which is predominant in the same, contest in a strange way and with the seriousness with which he as a judge goes to work…”(Trützschler 10.11819)
  • Fight for the right in times of demagogue pursuit: The murder of the poet August von Kotzebur by the student Sand is the reason for the Karlsbader resolutions 1819. They are directed against any anti-state conviction of a liberal or nation state nature. Climate of political intolerance and persicution is created. A „Royal immediate investigation comission”is set up for this purpose and Hoffmann is appointed a member of this comission by the order of the King’s cabinet on 1 October 1819. The poet-lawyer now has demagogic drives to investigate to his friend Hippel.
  • “…as you know me, you may imagine my mood when a whole web öf hopeless arbitrariness, impudent disregard for all laws, personal animosity developed before my eyes! Here it was time to punish with all severity on a legal path. But instead measures occurred which were not only directed against the deeds but against convictions…”(letter from 24.6.1820)
  • Out of a modern sence of justice, Hoffmann makes himself the lawyer of the famous father Jahn, who has been arrestet for „demagogy“. He allows Jahn to file a lawsuit against the director of the police department in the ministry of the interior. Carl von Kamptz his bitter enemy