Chamisso, Adelbert von

Chamisso, Adelbert von

(Louis Charles Adelaide de Chamisso) (ä`dəlbĕrt fən shəmĭ`sō), 1781–1838, German poet and naturalist, b. Château de Boncourt, France. He served as page at the court of William II of Prussia and, after army service and travels, became keeper of the royal botanical gardens. He edited (1804–6) the Musenalmanach and was a member of Mme de Staël's circle. His sentimental poetic cycle Frauenliebe und Leben (1830) was set to music by Schumann. Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (1814), his tale of a man who sold his shadow to the devil, has become legend. He also wrote plays, an account of his travels in the Pacific (1836), and a work on linguistics (1837).

Chamisso, Adelbert Von

 

Born Jan. 30, 1781, at the Chateau de Boncourt in Champagne, France; died Aug. 21, 1838, in Berlin. German writer and naturalist.

Chamisso, descended from a line of the Lotharingian nobility, served as an officer in the Prussian Army from 1801 to 1806. From 1812 to 1815 he studied botany, zoology, and medicine in Berlin. From 1815 to 1818 he took part in an expedition around the world on the Russian brig Riurik, during which he kept a diary, published as Voyage Around the World (1834–36). In 1819 he discovered the alternation of generations (metagenesis) in organisms of the subclass Salpae.

Chamisso’s most famous work of fiction is the tale Peter Schlemihl’s Remarkable Story (1814; Russian translation, 1841). Employing the story of a man who loses his shadow, Chamisso reveals the psychological plight of contemporary man, tempted by wealth and threatened by the loss of his personality. Chamisso can only partly be considered a romantic, as Peter Schlemihl is actually an example of late realist literary trends. Chamisso’s lyric poetry expresses love for the common people, as well as an interest in social issues. These works include his translations of P. J. de Béranger as well as original works in the style of Béranger and the narrative poem The Exiles (1831). His “Frauenliebe und -leben” cycle (1830) was set to music by R. Schumann (1840).

WORKS

Werke: Gedichte. Edited by O. Walzel. Stuttgart, 1892.
Werke, vols. 1–3. Leipzig-Vienna [1907].
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. v perevodakh rus. pisatelei. St. Petersburg, 1899.
Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1974.

REFERENCES

Istoriia nemetskoi literatury, vol. 3. Moscow, 1966.
Feudel, W. A. von Chamisso. Leipzig, 1971. (Contains bibliography.)

A. V. MIKHAILOV

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