Johann David Wyss Biography


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Johann Rudolph Wyss was born in Bern, Switzerland, on March 4, 1782. He was educated in Germany and became a philosophy professor at the Bern Academy. He enjoyed studying Swiss history and folklore, and he published several books and articles on the subject in literary magazines. He wrote the words to the Swiss national anthem, ''Rufst du, mein Vaterland" ("Callest Thou, My Fatherland"). He died in Bern on March 21, 1830.

It is almost certain that Johann Rudolph Wyss is not the actual author of The Swiss Family Robinson. He had the novel published in 1812 with his own name on the title page as the author, but in a second edition, he credited his father, Johann David Wyss (1743-1818), with "all that is original, instructive, and best in this book." Johann Rudolph Wyss probably edited, adapted, and revised the work. The original manuscript is in his father's handwriting.

The story of the composition of this work, as discovered by critics and historians, is a fascinating one. Johann David Wyss was the pastor at Bern's Protestant Cathedral. He had four sons on whom he lavished a great deal of time and attention. An unusually close-knit family, they played sports and read and studied together.

The boys were fond of travel and adventure books, especially Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), the tale of a man stranded on a desert island. When their father heard a factual account of a Swiss pastor marooned on an island near...

(The entire section is 314 words.)