Adalbert Stifter Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The literary fortunes of Adalbert Stifter (SHTIHF-tur) have risen and fallen several times in the German-speaking world, but in the United States he has remained nearly unknown outside the circle of scholars of German literature. Born October 23, 1805, in the village of Oberplan, in the Czech Republic (then a part of the Austrian Empire), he was the son of a linen trader and small-scale farmer. His mother was the daughter of a butcher. After his father died in an accident in 1817, Stifter’s maternal grandfather took him to the well-respected school of the Benedictine monastery of Kremsmünster, where he succeeded admirably. He left Kremsmünster in 1826 and entered the University of Vienna as a student of law. In Vienna, partly because he was often in financial difficulties, he experienced the sadness of being rejected as the suitor of Fanny Greipl, whose parents thought that he was beneath her. Supporting himself as a private tutor, often tutoring the children of prominent families, and occasionally selling a painting he had done, he married Amalia Mohaupt on November 15, 1837, even though he was still in love with Fanny.

In the 1840’s he began to succeed as a writer, but his gifts as a painter served him well in the moving descriptions of his native Austrian landscape found in his prose. The first novella he published, Der Condor (the condor), was well received, and it was soon followed by a number of others during a period of unusual...

(The entire section is 592 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Adalbert Stifter’s childhood in a village environment was a significant formative experience for the author. The quiet rural and forest landscape of his native surroundings informs the scenery of much of his literature. From his early youth he absorbed the simple things and processes of nature as great personal revelations. In 1818, Stifter began his secondary schooling at the Benedictine Abbey in Kremsmünster. There, he received solid humanistic training that permanently shaped his fundamental attitudes toward life. The best pupil in his class, he concerned himself extensively with art, music, and literature. Between 1818 and 1825, he began to paint and wrote his first lyric poems. His gifts as a teacher became apparent, and he earned money by tutoring younger pupils. Later, he looked back fondly at those school years as the purest, most beautiful period of his existence.

After leaving Kremsmünster, Stifter entered the University of Vienna, where he studied law. Unable to commit himself fully to a course of public service, he ended his studies without formally completing them. Mathematics and science attracted him, and his extensive background in a variety of fields enabled him to become a successful tutor in homes of the Viennese aristocracy. Among his pupils were Princess Anna Maria von Schwarzenberg and Klemens Metternich’s son, Richard.

While at the university, Stifter published a few poems under the pseudonym Ostade. His primary...

(The entire section is 602 words.)