It’s time for poetry. That’s because Radeberg Palace is the birthplace of a poet who was very widely read in the 19th century.
August Friedrich Ernst Langbein was born here at the palace in 1757, in the middle of the Seven Years’ War, which devastated the Electorate of Saxony. Langbein’s father was a senior civil servant, as was his grandfather.
And Langbein was to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a civil servant as well. As the eldest of fifteen children, he was sent to the elite school of St. Afra in Meissen at an early age. He studied law, worked briefly as a lawyer, and finally became a chancery clerk at the Secret Archives in Dresden.
In 1800, after 14 years of tedious service, he made a momentous decision. He gave notice, got married, and moved to Berlin, where he lived as a freelance writer from then on. At this point, Langbein was 43 years old. His father, who had still hoped the younger man would take up a position in Radeberg, refused to provide any financial assistance.
Langbein certainly could have used some, and urgently at that. His poems, stories, comedies and farces were actually extremely popular. But despite his success among a broad swathe of the public, he lived frugally and was constantly at risk of falling into poverty. In twenty years as a freelance writer, his output included novels with titles such as “Tomas Kellerwurm”, “Master Zippel’s Honeymoon” or “The Grey King” – most of which have since been forgotten. His repertoire even included ballads and aphorisms:
How foolish are the actions of the old, who keep a tight rein on their pennies
They’ve reached journey’s end on their path through the world,
and still make provision for travel money.
In 1820, when the penniless poet was over sixty, he was finally appointed as “censor for belles lettres”. Langbein once again had a position and an income. It’s said he even put some of his own early works on the index of banned books and eliminated them from the lending library catalogues. But who knows – perhaps that’s just a tall story deliberately put about by a writer with an all-too-lively imagination.
One thing, we do know. Since 1885, not quite half a century after Langbein’s death, the road that runs right past the front of the palace has been called “Langbeinstrasse”. In memory of the poet, but also of his father and grandfather, the elder Langbeins, who lived at the palace as senior civil servants.
Lecture Langbein: CD „Ein leerer Topf braucht keinen Deckel. Spitzzüngiges von August Friedrich Ernst Langbein". Music played by Annette Weirauch © Verein Schloss Klippenstein e.V. 2007
All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen