Welcome to the site of the E.T.A. Hoffmann Society!
The great German Romantic poet, composer and artist was born on 24 January 1776 as Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann at Königsberg / Eastern Prussia (now Kaliningrad) and died on 25 June 1822 in Berlin. From 1808 to 1813, he spent five years of his life in Bamberg, where he attempted to establish himself as a conductor and created some of his most inventive works. The small house where he lived is accessible as a museum.
The site of the E.T.A. Hoffmann Society provides information about the artist, his work and the E.T.A. Hoffmann House in Bamberg.
On these pages, the Society and its publications, most importantly the annual journal E.T.A. Hoffmann Jahrbuch, are presented. The society preserves the artistic memory of the poet, composer, painter and lawyer, takes care of it, promotes research work by organizing an annual conference in Bamberg and stimulates contact among researchers and admirers.
Members can announce their own publications and reviews or publish their texts on the site.
E.T.A. Hoffmann-Gesellschaft e.V.
Neue Residenz, Domplatz 8
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The E.T.A. Hoffmann Society is dedicated to keeping the memory of the Romantic poet alive in Bamberg, where he spent almost five years of his life. The small house in which he occupied to upper two floors has been turned into a museum, the E.T.A. Hoffmann House. English translations of the texts displayed in the rooms are available online.
E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), the great German Romantic, is primarily known as a writer. He was also, however, a gifted composer and a creative graphic artist. This website is dedicated to all three facets of his genius.
A Civil Service Career?
Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann was born in the Prussian city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia) on 24 January 1776. He later changed his third name to Amadeus because he revered Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. After studying at the University of Königsberg, he initially entered upon a career within the judiciary branch of the Prussian civil service. He was dismissed from his first appointment in Posen (now Poznan, Poland) for disciplinary reasons – he had satirised „high society“ of the town – and transferred to Plock. In Warsaw, many of his compositions were first performed. When, in the course of the Napoleonic Wars, French troops came to occupy Warsaw, Hoffmann lost his job there, moved to Berlin and in 1808 obtained the post of a musical director at the Bamberg theatre.
Hoffmann in Bamberg
E. T. A. Hoffmann lived in Bamberg from 1808 to 1813. At the theatre, he failed as musical director, but continued to be employed as a stagehand and general dogsbody, and members of the Bamberg „high society“, into which he had been introduced by the medical director of the local hospital, Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, expected him to provide singing lessons for their daughters, but did not appreciate him adequately. Nevertheless, Bamberg saw the composition of his opera Aurora, of his Miserere, and of the Duettini, which he wrote for his most gifted student Julia Mark, who was a thirteen-year old girl when she started taking lessons with him. Carl Friedrich Kunz, a wine merchant, bookseller, and owner of a renowned lending library, eventually became Hoffmann’s first publisher. Many important articles, above all musical critiques, however were published in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung for the first time.
Berlin: Judge and Author
When E. T. A. Hoffmann left Bamberg, he summarised his experiences with these words: „My years of apprenticeship and suffering are over, and what follows will be my years as a journeyman, and eventually as a master“. After a brief interlude as musical director in Leipzig and Dresden, he was appointed a judge in Berlin, and – as an excellent and upright lawyer – was particularly active in investigating „demagogic activities“ attributed to German liberal and nationalist circles on spurious grounds. In 1816, Hoffmann’s most renowned opera Undine (based on a text by Friedrich Baron de la Motte-Fouqué) was performed very successfully with the stage decorations of Karl Friedrich Schinkel. In his limited spare time, Hoffmann wrote a large number of tales and novels, including Kater Murr and Meister Floh; the latter brought him into conflict with the Prussian government and could only be printed with omissions (these were only published in 1906). Hoffmann died in Berlin on 25 June 1822.
E. T. A. Hoffmann’s first admirers after his death were authors particularly in France, Britain, the United States of America, and Russia. The belated reception in Germany was partly due to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s negative response to Hoffmann and other Romantic poets (he declared their creative imagination, and by implication themselves, „unhealthy“). It was only towards the end of the nineteenth century that German readers began to take notice of Hoffmann again. Hoffmann was to become one of the authors whose works have stimulated the fantasy of numerous illustrators worldwide; in addition, some of this tales have inspired musical compositions. Jacques Offenbach’s popular opera The Tales of Hoffmann ensures that his name, and the names of some of his characters (among them the dwarf Klein Zaches and the doll Olympia), will be preserved in the general memory forever. Hoffmann’s own compositions continue to be performed successfully in our time.
The Bamberg E.T.A. Hoffmann House
The house was the second lodging of Hoffmann and his Polish wife Michaelina in Bamberg. From 1809 to 1813 they rented the two upper floors, a living room and a kitchen on the second floor, and a bedroom and study, the Poet’s Room, on the third. The original furniture has not been preserved.
Since 1927 the Poet’s Room has been used for museum purposes and was opened to the public in 1930. The other rooms of the house were in course of time adapted accordingly. In the course of recent years, the house was refurbished without diminishing the original aura.
From the square, the house can be identified by the sign of Kater Murr. In the house, special installations evoke a fantastic atmosphere. They comprise a Cabinet of Mirrors with different portraits of Hoffmann, a paper theatre of Nussknacker und Mausekönig, a small opera box for Undine and, based on Meister Floh, a microscope for detecting the truth behind people’s utterances in form of a huge cylinder.
An interactive music chest of drawers enables visitors to listen to Hoffmann’s music performed mostly according to his autographic scores. Two contemporary pianofortes are on display in the house. One of them resembles the instrument in Hoffmann’s self portrait as Johannes Kreisler, but was constructed by the Bamberg instrument maker Christoph Ehrlich in 1809/10; it can be heard in an audio station. A mobile “ETAH instrumentation” dangles from the ceiling. A room on the second floor is equipped with a pianoforte manufactured by the Würzburg instrument maker Jakob Pfister in c. 1810, which can be used for recitals.
From time to time, special exhibitions are shown in the house, including the permanent display Hoffmann enlighted by H. G. Ludwig on the first floor. In addition, the garden was laid out on the basis of inspirations from Hoffmann’s works, e.g. Der goldene Topf, and his fondness of plants.