Johann Christoph Gottsched - Encyclopedia




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JOHANN CHRISTOPH GOTTSCHED (1700-1766), German author and critic, was born on the 2nd of February 1700, at Judithenkirch near Konigsberg, the son of a Lutheran clergyman. He studied philosophy and history at the university of his native town, but immediately on taking the degree of Magister in 1723, fled to Leipzig in order to evade impressment in the Prussian military service. Here he enjoyed the protection of J. B. Mencke (1674-1732), who, under the name of "Philander von der Linde," was a well-known poet and also president of the Deutschiibende poetische Gesellschaft in Leipzig. Of this society Gottsched was elected "Senior" in 1726, and in the next year reorganized it under the title of the Deutsche Gesellschaft. In 1730 he was appointed extraordinary professor of poetry, and, in 1734, ordinary professor of logic and metaphysics in the university. He died at Leipzig on the 12th of December 1766.

Gottsched's chief work was his Versuch einer kritischen Dichtkunst filr die Deutschen (1730), the first systematic treatise in German on the art of poetry from the standpoint of Boileau. His Ausfilhrliche Redekunst (1728) and his Grundlegung einer deutschen Sprachkunst (1748) were of importance for the development of German style and the purification of the language. He wrote several plays, of which Der sterbende Cato (1732), an adaptation of Addison's tragedy and a French play on the same theme, was long popular on the stage. In his Deutsche Schaubi ilne (6 vols., 1740-1745), which contained mainly translations from the French, he provided the German stage with a classical repertory, and his bibliography of the German drama, Notiger Vorrat zur Geschichte der deutschen dramatischen Dichtkunst (1757-1765), is still valuable. He was also the editor of several journals devoted to literary criticism. As a critic, Gottsched insisted on German literature being subordinated to the laws of French classicism; he enunciated rules by which the playwright must be bound, and abolished bombast and buffoonery from the serious stage. While such reforms obviously afforded a healthy corrective to the extravagance and want of taste which were rampant in the German literature of the time, Gottsched went too far. In 1740 he came into conflict with the Swiss writers Johann Jakob Bodmer and Johann Jakob Breitinger (1701-1776), who, under the influence of Addison and contemporary Italian critics, demanded that the poetic imagination should not be hampered by artificial rules; they pointed to the great English poets, and especially to Milton. Gottsched, although not blind to the beauties of the English writers, clung the more tenaciously to his principle that poetry must be the product of rules, and, in the fierce controversy which for a time raged between Leipzig and Zurich, he was inevitably defeated. His influence speedily declined, and before his death his name became proverbial for pedantic folly.

His wife, Luise Adelgunde Victorie, nee Kulmus (1713-1762), in some respects her husband's intellectual superior, was an author of some reputation. She wrote several popular comedies, of which Das Testament is the best, and translated the Spectator (9 vols., 1739-1743), Pope's Rape of the Lock (1744) and other English and French works. After her death her husband edited her Sdmtliche kleinere Gedichte with a memoir (1763).

See T. W. Danzel, Gottsched and seine Zeit (Leipzig, 1848); J. Cruger, Gottsched, Bodmer, and Breitinger (with selections from their writings) (Stuttgart, 1884); F. Servaes, Die Poetik Gottscheds and der Schweizer (Strassburg, 1887); E. Wolff, Gottscheds Stellung im deutschen Bildungsleben (2 vols., Kiel, 1895-1897), and G. Waniek, Gottsched and die deutsche Literatur seiner Zeit (Leipzig, 1897). On Frau Gottsched, see P. Schlenther, Frau Gottsched and die biirgerliche Komodie (Berlin, 1886).

Gotz, Johann Nikolaus (1721-1781), German poet, was born at Worms on the 9th of July 1721. He studied theology at Halle (1739-1742), where he became intimate with the poets Johann W. L. Gleim and Johann Peter Uz, acted for some years as military chaplain, and afterwards filled various other ecclesiastical offices. He died at Winterburg on the 4th of November 1781. The writings of Gotz consist of a number of short lyrics and several translations, of which the best is a rendering of Anacreon. His original compositions are light, lively and sparkling, and are animated rather by French wit than by German depth of sentiment. The best known of his poems is Die M¢dcheninsel, an elegy which met with the warm approval of Frederick the Great.

Gotz's Vermischte Gedichte were published with biography by K. W. Ramler (Mannheim, 1785; new ed., 1807), and a collection of his poems, dating from the years 1745-1765, has been edited by C. Schuddekopf in the Deutsche Literaturdenkmale des 18. and 19. Jahrhunderts (1893). See also Briefe von and an J. N. Gotz, edited by C. Schiiddekopf (1893).

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