German Realism culminated in the late nineteenth century novels of Theodor Fontane (fawn-TAH-nuh). Born into a Huguenot family in Prussia, Fontane later portrayed that north German landscape unforgettably. Initially he chose the same profession as his father and trained as an apothecary, working in Berlin, Burg, Leipzig, and Dresden. When he was twenty-five he joined the apolitical Berlin literary society Der Tunnel Ober der Spree (tunnel over the spree), where he met weekly for many years with prominent writers and artists.
At the age of thirty, Fontane married and became a journalist, working in Germany and England for the Prussian press headquarters. At the same time he began to write ballads. Fontane was familiar with the English and Scottish ballad tradition, and he did not restrict himself to Prussian subject matter. One of his best-known ballads, “Archibald Douglas,” is about the Scotsman.
When he was forty, Fontane returned to Germany, where he worked for a decade as editor of the English section of the Kreuz-Zeitung, then from 1870 to 1889 as the theater critic for the Vossische Zeitung. During this time, Fontane, writing in a genre popular in Germany, reached a wide audience when he published four entertaining and informed accounts of his travels through the Mark Brandenburg region as well as a fifth volume about castles there.
Financial difficulties prevented Fontane from writing his...
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