I know Nature has granted me a talent not found in many; the talent to take any subject and, with some ease, approach and address it in such a way as to please and entertain the multitude, prove interesting to many, and to some, even important.
Wilhelm Hauff was born on the 29th of November 1802 in Stuttgart. His father died young, so his mother moved back to her father’s house in the city of Tübingen – with four small children in tow.
In Tübingen, Wilhelm Hauff attended Latin school, but academically, his achievements were average. He preferred to spend his time in his grandfather’s library, reading everything he could lay hands on – the German classics by Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, and Lessing. But also novels copiously populated with knights, robbers and noble maidens. Before long, his siblings considered him a gifted storyteller.
But a career as a writer was not the destiny proposed for young Hauff. He was to go into the church, if you please. So, as a first step, the lad was dispatched to the seminary in the town of Blaubeuren. Hauff hated boarding school life, and in hopes of leaving it behind him as quickly as possible, he was industrious and studied hard.
In the autumn of 1820, now back in Tübingen, he enrolled at the university to read theology and philosophy. But the idea of living a life in service to the church, working as a provincial pastor – that was something Hauff simply couldn’t accept. And so he started out by making his living as a tutor. That left him enough time for writing.
What the writer couldn’t know, was that his life would be brief. He returned home from a research trip to the Tyrol, already unwell. The doctors attempted to cure his “nervous fever” with emetics and laxatives. On the 18th of November 1827, Hauff died of typhoid fever – just before his 25th birthday.
I have published my writings in some haste and not without effrontery. I shall not regret a single sentence I have written, but in some instances, I might have been more discerning, had I had more peace and leisure. In myself, I have the sense that, while I still have much to learn, as a student, I am not beyond learning. (…) So take courage; I shall not retreat, nor stand still, but stride ahead, though my mortal body should perish sooner than had I continued to live my life as a philistine and in comfort. […]
Foto: © Wilhelm-Hauff-Museum