Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann


Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann : biography

24 January 1776 – 25 June 1822

Financial independence didn’t save Hoffmann from family care and Puritan society. His life was divided in two parts: during days he was an honest lawyer, and at night he gave himself up to music, painting and literature – though, his first two novels, unfortunately, didn’t remain, but he wrote them without thinking about a fame of a writer. By that time von Gippel had already left the city, and friends wrote letters to each other for many years.

In 1796 Hoffmann’s mother died, and Ernst felt all horror of “despotic greatness’ of death. Dora Hatt gave birth to the sixth child, and her relations with Ernst became a public scandal. Derffer’s family council decided to send “a lost sheep” far from his lover – in Glogow, to his godfather and a cousin of his parent Johann Derffer, who had a young daughter Wilhelmina.

The next tutor was a councilor in the Glogow Supreme Court and made his godson a recorder of deeds. Two years later Ernst was engaged with his daughter without any desire, at his relatives’ insistence. He didn’t resisted their engagement, because he had been already disappointed in a great love to Dora, who didn’t suffer without him. Soon Johann Derffer was transferred to Berlin, and his godson, who had already passed the second governmental examination, went with him.

In Berlin Hoffmann became a speaker in the appellate court, and in his free time he attended museums and theatres and quickly started to feel at home among the capital’s bohemian circles. In 1799 he composed music and libretto of a three acted singspiel (a short opera) under the name “The Mask” and began to intercede for a performance in the Royal theatre – but unsuccessfully, and his request about protection, sent to queen Luisa, probably didn’t get to the addressee. It should be noticed, that Ernst’s attempts to become a composer – and he really had a talent – didn’t slow down his promotion track. In March of 1800 the young lawyer brilliantly passed the third examination and he was appointed an assessor of the Poznan circuit court.

His position was really good, but it was unbearable to stay in provincial atmosphere after the capital. But on the other hand, people of art accepted Hoffmann with open arms – so well, that everyday feasts became usual for Ernst. In this period he created a new singspiel on Goete’s work. For the first time a one-act “Joke, slyness and revenge” was put on the stage in Poznan, and Hoffmann tasted happiness of public’s acknowledgement. But the destiny didn’t indulge him – after several performances there was a fire in the theatre, and all score was burnt in it, and there were no copies left. Ernst’s depression was resulted in a long drinking bout, which was accompanied with hallucinations: he saw talking spirits and chimeras in the dark. He liked it in some sense – it took him away from reality, and sometimes Hoffmann regretted that appeared nightmares didn’t come to workday life in their true aspect, and only remained ominous shadows… This year in Poznan Hoffmann later called the strangest in his life.

In 1802 Hoffmann met a daughter of a Poznan clerk, Michalina Rorer. Her Polish father changed the last name for a German version, but it didn’t help – he was fired because of his poor knowledge of the German language. Hoffmann understood that marriage with Wilhelmina Derrfer would make him and her unhappy and broke the engagement, and then married Michalina, adopted Catholic religion for the wedding. He didn’t feel ardent passion to his wife, but the marriage wasn’t a mistake – Michalina was a perfect partner in life. he wasn’t romantic at all, very ordinary and pale, she thought calmly of her talented husband’s strangeness and didn’t leave him even in difficult times. She gave stability to Hoffmann’s life, and she didn’t manage to restrain demons, that tortured Ernst.