Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann


Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann : biography

24 January 1776 – 25 June 1822

On the way to Poznan a tragedy happened – a post carriage overturned, Michalina seriously injured her head, and Cecilia died. Fortunately, Hoffmann’s wife managed to reach her home, but the tragedy influenced on Hoffmann – he was ill with a nervous fever. He lived in Warsaw till July and finally went to Berlin.

He was only thirty years old – but already had an undermined health, ill state of mind and impossibility to find a job. Times were difficult, and Hoffmann wasn’t needed as a lawyer, a composer or a conductor. He sold caricatures on Napoleon, spread musical issues and even mediated in selling pianos. But earned money was very little. Owing to notices in newspapers Ernst managed to find a job: he was offered a position of a theatrical bandmaster in Bamberg, in the duke’s palace. He agreed and immediately called to his wife, but her parents were against Michalina’s departure. It wasn’t surprising – they married their daughter to a governmental official, and suddenly had a musician son-in-law. Ernst had to go to Poznan to take his wife.

In August of 1808 the couple moved in Bamberg and settled in the attic of a four-stored narrow house, and Hoffmann took his post. He immediately understood all charm of working in a tiny provincial theatre: he was a conductor, a composer, an engineer of the stage and a designer of decorations for a small salary. Though, Ernst had been already accustomed to poverty, and Michalina’s patience didn’t have borders, so finances weren’t the main problem. Hoffmann was busy with his favourite thing and would be happy, but soon the duke, the owner of the theatre, passed direction and all administration to some Kuno, a very ignorant and arrogant person.

But nevertheless, the world was beautiful. Hoffmann earned some money on the side with private lessons, made fleeting affairs with married women, composed music, wrote critical articles with caustic taste of satire and didn’t want to return to the law. The theatre finally collapsed, and after that a former bandmaster, who was being published in newspapers, turned his attention to literary activity.

His first story was published in winter of 1809 in “The General Musical Newspaper” – it was “Ritter Gluck”, but very cut. There wasn’t Hoffmann’s sign under this story, because he hoped that he would become famous as a composer, and didn’t want to attract attention, especially as because one of his Berlin friends Franz von Golbain began to restore the theatre. Hoffmann returned in the theatre with pleasure, where he was given absolute freedom, but fortunately he didn’t give up writing. In September of 1809 he published “Johann Kreisler’s musical sufferings”.

A year later his pupil Julia Mark, a daughter of a local consul, suddenly blossomed out and turned into a charming lady, and Hoffmann literally lost his head. He valued his wife as before, but couldn’t overcome sudden passion. It wasn’t mutual – a young girl from a perfect family with a good dowry couldn’t think about a talented, but moneyless and unbalanced man, who was twenty years older. Hoffmann’s world continued to double: bright admirations changed into reckless depression. And alcohol always accompanied both those states.

In 1812 the girl’s parents finally noticed strange feelings of her teacher and gave to understand, that he shouldn’t attend their house. Soon Julia was married. According to the law of a black stripe the theatre was also closed, and Hoffmann was invited to be a bandmaster in a Dresden troupe. He left Bamburg without hesitations.

Things were better in Dresden. Ernst was on a tour with the theatre’s troupe, mainly as a conductor, earned money and wrote a lot. In August of 1813 the war reached еры place, and Hoffmann justified an opinion that genius needs shock. Every day he watched trenches, heaped up with bodies, balls, bursting on the streets and other horrors, and he wrote one of the best fairy-tales “The Golden Pot”, a story about the world of dreams and magic love. “Hypnotist”, “The Sand Man” and a collection of stories “Fantasies in Kallo’s manner” also appeared at that time. But side activities of the bandmaster were noticed by a director of the troupe, and he didn’t like it. Hoffmann left the theatre after a big quarrel.