Biography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 602

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....

(The entire section contains 602 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Adalbert Stifter study guide. You'll get access to all of the Adalbert Stifter content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Biography
  • Critical Essays
  • Analysis
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

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 artistic interest, however, was in painting, which remained important to him throughout his life. It provided him with supplementary income during the early years of his marriage and gave him an orientation toward art that later had a profound impact on his writing.

Early reverence for his parents and grandparents led Stifter to view an effective life within the family as an ultimate ideal. His own lack of success in that area of endeavor had significant implications and consequences for his career. After an unsuccessful relationship with a merchant’s daughter, Fanny Greipl, he married Amalie Mohaupt, a poor but beautiful girl with whom he had little in common. Their emotionally unrewarding marriage—childless, except for the daughter from Amalie’s previous marriage—provided a frustrating background from which Stifter poured his heart out into his stories.

By accident, a friend read the manuscript of The Condor and subsequently mediated its publication. Spurred by the novella’s success, Stifter began a fruitful creative period that produced some of his best prose narratives. By 1853, he had published ten books and many essays and had reached the peak of his literary popularity.

The Revolution of 1848 and its aftermath played an important role in the shaping of Stifter’s mature works. He reacted strongly to the violence that shredded the values that he held most dear. The “gentle law” that governed all that he wrote after 1850 is largely the codification of his rejection of the Revolution’s destructiveness. Acceptance in 1850 of an administrative position in the Upper Austrian school system and his subsequent involvement in various civic enterprises allowed him to respond to negative influences of the political upheaval and partially realize his goals for educational and cultural reform. The major concerns that dominated his public and private life in Linz are visible in his novels.

Stifter’s last years were burdened with ill health and misfortune. He was psychologically devastated by the decline of his literary reputation and by several family disasters. In 1865, he began to suffer from a liver ailment from which he never fully recovered. These physical and spiritual torments finally defeated him in January, 1868, and he attempted suicide. The ministrations of a doctor succeeded only in prolonging his misery for two additional days.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Adalbert Stifter Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Next

Critical Essays