E. T. A. Hoffmann Biography


Birthday: January 24, 1776 (Aquarius)

Born In: Königsberg, Germany

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was an author, jurist, composer, music critic, and artist who was a major figure in German Romantic literature. A writer of fantasy and horror stories, he wrote the novella ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’, which Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky adapted for his ballet, ‘The Nutcracker’. His stories also served as the inspiration for Jacques Offenbach's opera ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’, in which a fictionalized version of Hoffmann serves as the hero. Two of his other stories inspired the ballet ‘Coppélia,’ while Robert Schumann's ‘Kreisleriana’ is about his character Johannes Kreisler. Hailing from an affluent family of jurists, Hoffmann was taught classics, music, and drawing. Soon enough, he began writing. He held a variety of jobs throughout his life, from being a music teacher to clerk to city administrator. He lived in Berlin, Warsaw, Bamberg, Dresden, and Leipzig and was part of several courts. Hoffmann survived Napoleon Bonaparte's French empire. Despite all the hardships he encountered, he continued to write and create art. In the last years of his life, he became a target of Prussian royalty’s campaign against political dissidents.

Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann

Died At Age: 46


Spouse/Ex-: Marianna Tekla Michalina Rorer

father: Christoph Ludwig Hoffmann

mother: Lovisa Albertina Doerffer Hoffman

siblings: Johann Ludwig Hoffmann

children: Cäcilia Hoffmann

Born Country: Germany

Novelists German Men

Died on: June 25, 1822

place of death: Berlin, Germany

More Facts

education: Burgschule, University of Königsberg

Childhood & Early Life
E. T. A. Hoffmann was born on January 24, 1776, in Königsberg, Province of East Prussia, Kingdom of Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia), to Christoph Ludwig Hoffmann and Lovisa Albertina Doerffer. His father worked as a barrister. He was the youngest of three siblings. The middle child passed away in infancy.
Following his parents’ separation, Hoffmann was raised by his mother, two maternal aunts and an uncle. He was taught classics and drawing. He demonstrated great potential as a piano player. During this period, he started writing as well.
Around 1787, he met Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel the Younger, who went on to become his lifelong friend. In the mid-1790s, he developed a brief infatuation towards a married woman named Dora Hatt, who was ten years his senior and the mother of six children.
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Life in the Provinces
In 1796, E. T. A. Hoffmann began working as a clerk for his uncle Johann Ludwig Doerffer in Glogau (Głogów), Prussian Silesia. He successfully gave several examinations and travelled to Dresden, where he was exposed to the works of artists like Correggio and Raphael.
Later, he relocated to Berlin with his uncle and cousin. His first operetta, ‘Die Maske’, was composed while he was in the city.
Between 1800 and 1803, he was employed in the Prussian provinces in the area of Greater Poland and Masovia. This was the first time he was living on his own. In 1802, he exchanged wedding vows with "Mischa" (Maria, or Marianna Tekla Michalina Rorer). Later that year, the couple relocated to Plock.
Time in Warsaw
In early 1804, Hoffmann received a post in Warsaw and moved there. He considered the years he lived in Warsaw to be the happiest of his life. It was quite easy for him to integrate into Polish society.
Serving as the chief Prussian administrator of Warsaw, he assigned surnames to the members of the Jewish community. He was part of Warsaw’s intellectual circles and met August Wilhelm Schlegel, Adelbert von Chamisso, Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, Rahel Levin, and David Ferdinand Koreff.
In November 1806, during the War of the Fourth Coalition, Napoleon’s army invaded Poland and took control of Warsaw. In January 1807, Hoffmann sent his wife and daughter Cäcilia to Posen, while he travelled back to Berlin.
Later Years
Hoffmann experienced the worst period of his life in Berlin. The French empire had captured Berlin as well. He received a meagre allowance and often had to borrow money from friends and acquaintances. At some point, he came to know that his daughter had passed away.
In September 1808, he moved to Bamberg with his wife and began working as a theatre manager. Despite his efforts, the acting of the troupe did not improve, and he was eventually fired.
He got a job at the ‘Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung’ newspaper as a music critic. His articles on Beethoven garnered a positive response, including from the composer himself. Following the release of the story ‘Ritter Gluck’, Hoffmann drew the attention of the literary world. In 1810, he became a stagehand, decorator, and playwright at the Bamberg Theatre.
In 1813, he relocated to Dresden to become the musical director at Joseph Seconda’s opera company. However, when he got there, he found out that Seconda had gone to Leipzig, so he and his wife moved there. Both of these journeys were constantly hindered by the war. He later came back to Dresden with Seconda’s troupe. Hoffmann worked with them until February 1814.
Family & Personal Life
E. T. A. Hoffmann married Mischa (Marianna Tekla Michalina Rorer) in the early 1800s. They had one daughter called Cäcilia Hoffmann.
Hoffmann spent the final years of his life in Berlin. He was part of the Kammergericht, the chamber court. His opera, ‘Undine’, was produced at the Berlin Theatre. He got into several legal disputes while battling poor health, alcoholism, and syphilis. Furthermore, he became one of the victims of Prussian royalty’s campaign against political dissidence.
On June 25, 1822, Hoffmann passed away due to syphilis-related complications. He was 46 years old at the time. He is interred in the Protestant Friedhof III der Jerusalems- und Neuen Kirchengemeinde in Berlin-Kreuzberg.
Considered to be one of the best-known representatives of German Romanticism and a pioneer of the fantasy genre, with a flair of macabre mixed with realism, Hoffmann inspired the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Nikolai Gogol, Charles Dickens, Charles Baudelaire, George MacDonald, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vernon Lee, Franz Kafka, and Alfred Hitchcock.

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