Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Novalis was born Friedrich von Hardenberg, the first son of Heinrich Ulrich Erasmus von Hardenberg, a strict member of the pietistic Herrnhut sect, and Auguste Bernhardine von Bölzig. Throughout his life, Novalis attempted to reconcile the practical demands of his father with the poetic inspiration he claimed first to have received from his mother. Novalis’s acquaintance with the popular poet Gottfried August Bürger in 1789 intensified his early literary aspirations, but encouraged by his father to pursue an administrative career, Novalis began the study of law at the University of Jena in 1790. Although his lyric output during his stay in Jena seems to have abated, he soon found his poetic proclivities rekindled and redirected by the poet Friedrich Schiller, who was then a professor of history at the university. Under Schiller’s spell, the young Novalis became more introspective and sought a solid foundation for his life and poetry. With this new outlook, he bowed to paternal pressure and transferred to the University of Leipzig in 1791. His experience there once again only strengthened his literary and philosophical interests, however, for it was in Leipzig that he began his friendship and fruitful intellectual exchange with Friedrich von Schlegel, the brilliant theorist of German Romanticism. Only after taking up studies in Wittenberg did he receive his law degree, in 1794.

After several carefree months with his family in Weissenfels, Novalis was apprenticed by his father to Coelestin August Just, the district director of Thuringia, who lived in Tennstedt. It was during his first months there that Hardenberg came to know the...

(The entire section is 680 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Novalis (noh-VAHL-uhs) was a highly original German poet and thinker and a central figure in the history of German Romanticism. Born Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg, the son of an old and noble family, he showed literary interests at an early age. By 1789 he had met Gottfried Bürger, the author of Lenore (1774), and had begun writing verses of his own.{$S[A]Hardenberg, Georg Friedrich Philipp von;Novalis}

After attending Gymnasium, Novalis studied law at the University of Jena in 1791. There he met Friedrich Schiller. who profoundly impressed him; a poem written at this time, “Klagen eines Jünglings” (lament of a youth), shows Schiller’s influence. In October, 1791, Novalis left Jena and went to the University of Leipzig, where he remained until March, 1793. During this period he became friends with Friedrich Schlegel. Although this association was difficult and strained at times, Schlegel’s intellectual influence contributed greatly to Novalis’s development.

In May, 1793, Novalis entered the University of Wittenberg, where he received his law degree in June, 1794. He thereupon became a law clerk in the small town of Tennstedt. On November 17, 1794, on the occasion of an official visit to Grüningen Castle, he met the twelve-and-a-half-year-old Sophie von Kühn, a meeting that was to be the most important event of his life.

By his own account, Novalis immediately fell in love with the young girl, and in March, 1795, they became engaged. In November of that year, however, Sophie became ill, and on March 19, 1797, at the age of fifteen, she died of tuberculosis and liver disease. Even before her death, Novalis had begun to see her as the embodiment and symbol of transcendent love. The following May 13 of that year he had a mystical experience at Sophie’s grave which strengthened his sense of her identification with the infinite, the eternal, and the divine. Sophie, as symbol and muse, is present in most of his mature writing.

Throughout the period from 1793 to 1797 Novalis read widely in philosophy. He was particularly influenced by...

(The entire section is 865 words.)