Joseph von Eichendorff

Portrait of Joseph von Eichendorff

Joseph von Eichendorff was a German poet, novelist, playwright, anthologist, critic and translator. He was born in Lubowice, Poland on 10th March 1788 and died in Nysa, Poland on 26th November 1857 aged 69.

Major Works

Novellen des Marmorbild”s (Novellas of a Marble Statue) (1819)
“Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts” (Memoirs of a Good for Nothing) (1826)
“Gedichte von Joseph Freiherrn von Eichendorff” (1837)
Robert und Guiscard” (1855)

Biography Timeline

Joseph Karl Benedikt Freiherr von Eichendorff was born on 10th March 1788, in Lubowitz Castle near Ratibor, Prussia, Germany. (Now Raciborz, Poland). His father was Adolf Freiherr von Eichendorff an officer in the Prussian army and from a noble family. His mother was Karoline née von Kloche. Both he and his older brother Wilhelm were educated at home by their tutor Bernhard Heinke until 1801.

1798: He begins writing his diary which he continues for most of his life.

1801: He writes in his diary that on 19th June that his father travels to Breslau to escape from his creditors. Both brothers attend the Catholic Matthias Gymnasium in Breslau.

1804: His sister Luise Antonie Nepomucene Johanna is born. After their exams, both brothers attend lectures at the University of Breslau.

1805: Both brothers study law in Halle an der Saale near Jena. They both attend the theatre in Lauchstadt where the Weimar Court company perform plays by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He and his brother go on a tour of the Harz mountains.

1806: In October the University at Halle closes due to the occupation by Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops.

1807: He and his brother go to Heidelberg to complete their law studies at the university. He publishes his first poetry and meets Achim von Arnim. He falls in love with Katchen Forster.

1808: Both brothers complete their degrees and then travel to Paris and Berlin. In Berlin they meet Adam Muller, Clemens Brentano and Heinrich von Kleist.

1809: He continues his studies in Berlin. His parents hope he will marry a wealthy heiress to clear their debts but he falls in love with and gets engaged to Aloysia von Larisch (Luise) the seventeen-year-old daughter of an impoverished Catholic noble family.

1810: The brothers travel to Vienna and pass the state diploma examination. Wilhelm gets a post in the Austrian civil service, while Joseph goes home to help his father with manage the family estate. 

1813: When the Prussian war of liberation begins, he aims to enlist in the Lützowsche Freikorps to fight Napoleon, however he doesn’t have enough money to purchase a uniform, arms, or horse, and when he does hostilities are all but over. He writes one of his most famous poems “Das Zerbochene Ringlein” (The Broken Ring) based on his feelings of unrequited love for the nineteen-year-old daughter of a cellar man.

1815: He works for the Prussian Civil Service in Danzig and Konigsberg, He marries Aloysia von Larisch in St. Vinzenz church in Breslau and they have a son called Hermann.

1818: His father dies.

1819: He writes the novels “Ahnung und Gegenwart” (Premonition and Present), which is full of despair at the political situation and the need for a spiritual cure, and “Novellen des Marmorbild”s (Novellas of a Marble Statue) which is a supernatural fairy tale. His daughter Therese is born.

1822: His mother dies meaning the final loss of the family’s estates in Silesia.

1826: He publishes “Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts” (Memoirs of a Good-for-Nothing) which is often seen as a high point of Romantic fiction and concerns wanderlust and love where the son of a miller becomes a gardener at a Viennese palace and falls in love with a duke’s daughter.

1831: He works for the Civil Service in Berlin. 

1837: He publishes the novella “Das Schloss Dürande” (Castle Dürande) set in the time of the French Revolution. He writes the poems “Gedichte” which become very popular and some are later to be set to music by Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn.

1844: He retires from the civil service and devotes himself to writing. He works on a history of German literature and translates several Spanish works.

1855: He writes the epic poem “Robert und Guiscard”. His wife Aloysia dies.

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff died on 26th November 1857, in Neisse (now Nysa, Poland). He was buried in the Jerusalemer Friedhof, (Jerusalem Cemetery) Nysa, Opolskie, Poland.

Further Information

List of works by Eichendorff.