Jean Paul Friedrich Richter

Portrait of Jean Paul Friedrich Richter

Jean Paul Friedrich Richter was a German Romantic writer, best known for his humorous novels and stories. He was born in Wunsiedel, Germany on 21st March 1763 and died in Bayreuth, Germany on 14th November 1825 aged 62.

Major Works

Die Unsichtbare Loge” (The Invisible Lodge) (1793).
Hesperu” (1795).
“Leben des Quintus Fixlein” (Life of Quintus Fixlein) (1796). “Siebenkas” (1796).
Dämmerungen für Deutschland” (Twilights for Germany) (1809).
Politische Fastenpredigten” (Political Lenten Sermons) (1817).

Biography Timeline

Johann-Paul Friedrich Richter (often known by pseudonym Jean Paul) was born on 21st March 1763 in Wunsiedel, Bavaria, Germany. His father was the local organist. He was educated at the Gymnasium school in Hof.

1765: His father becomes Pastor at Joditz near Hof.

1767: His father becomes pastor at Schwarzenbach.

1779: His father dies on 25th April leaving the family in poverty. 

1781: He goes to the University of Leipzig to study theology but is not interested in the subject and then switches to literature instead.

1783: His first published work is “Grönländische Prozesse” (Greenland Lawsuits) which are published anonymously in Berlin for the next two years.

1784: He returns to Hof to live with his mother as he can’t afford to keep himself at Leipzig.

1787: He works as a tutor at Topen, a village near Hof, until 1789.

1789: He publishes “Auswahl aus des Teufels Papieren” (Selections from the Devil’s Papers). These satirical works prove not be popular and he later disowns them.

1790: He founds a school in nearby Schwarzenbach. His writings are profoundly affected by a vision of his own death he experiences on 15th November.

1793: He begins to use a pseudonym (Jean-Paul in honour of Jean-Jacques Rousseau) for his next book, a romance entitled “Die Unsichtbare Loge” (The Invisible Lodge). The work is well received by the public and he writes several others beginning with “Leben des Vergnügten Schulmeisterleins Maria Wutz in AuenthalEine Art Idylle” (Life of the Cheerful Schoolmaster Maria Wutz. An Art Idyll). 

1795: He publishes the work which establishes his fame, the bestseller Hesperu”.

1786: He publishes “Biographische Belustigungen unter der Gehirnschale einer Riesin” (Biographical Recreations under the Brainpan of a Giantess). 

1796: He publishes the novel “Leben des Quintus Fixlein” (Life of Quintus Fixlein) and “Biographische Belustigungen” (Biographical Amusements). He begins writing the supernatural novel “Siebenkas” which proves controversial on publication over its interpretation of the Resurrection but this brings him even more fame.

1797: He publishes “Der Jubelsenior” (The Parson in Jubilee) and “Das Kampaner Tal” (The Valley of Campan). His mother dies and he moves to Leipzig. 

1798: He moves on to Weimar where he starts writing the novel “Titan”. He becomes friends with Johann Gottfried Herder but both Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich von Schiller are not enamoured of his supernatural and satirical style. He publishes “Konjekturalbiographie” (Conjectural Biography).

1800: “Titan” is published between 1800 and 1803.

1801: He marries Caroline Meyer, whom he had met in Berlin. They go to live in Meiningen and then move to Coburg. He publishes “Des Luftschiffers Giannozzo Seebuch” (The Aeronaut Giannoozo Seebuch).

1804: The couple move to Bayreuth in Bavaria, Germany. He wants to have a quiet life from now on to dedicate himself to writing. He begins working on “Flegeljahre” (The Awkward Age). He sets down his ideas on art in “Vorschule der Aesthetik” (Introduction to Aesthetics).

1805: He publishes “Freiheitsbüchlein” (Freedom booklet) in which he is opposed to censorship.

1807: He publishes “Levana, oder Erziehungslehre” (Levana, or Pedagogy) which discusses the principles of education. 

1808: Prince Karl Theodor von Dalberg begins to give him a substantial annual pension which frees him from financial worries. This is later continued by the King of Bavaria. He publishes “Friedens-Predigt an Deutschland” (Peace Sermon for Germany).

1809: He publishes “Dr Katzenbergers Badereise” (Dr Katzenberger’s Trip to the Medicinal Springs),“Des Feldpredigers Schmelzle Reise nach Flätz” (Army Chaplain Schmelzle’s Voyage to Flätz) and “Dämmerungen für Deutschland” (Twilights for Germany). 

1812: He publishes “Leben Fibels (The Life of Fibel).

1814: He supports the young writer E.T.A. Hoffman and writes a preface to his collection of short stories “Fantasy Pieces”. He publishes “Mars und Phöbus Thronwechsel im Jahre 1814” (Mars and Phoebus Exchange Thrones in the Year 1814).

1817: His “Politische Fastenpredigten” (Political Lenten Sermons) warns rulers that minds cannot be fully controlled, and that police actions will only cause them to eventually explode like a “champagne bottle”. 

1821: In September his only son Max dies prematurely and this affects him deeply.

1822: He publishes “Der Komet, oder Nikolaus Marggraf” (The Comet, or, Nikolaus Markgraf).

1824: He loses his sight completely.

Jean-Paul Friedrich Richter died of dropsy on 14th November 1825 in Bayreuth, Germany. He was buried in the Stadtfriedhof Bayreuth, (Bayreuth Municipal Cemetery). (His “Wahrheit aus Jean Pauls Leben” (The Truth from Jean Paul’s Life) was incomplete at his death and later finished by others).