Hietzing Cemetery, Maxingstraße 15, 1130 Wien, Austria
Franz Seraphicus Grillparzer (15 January 1791 – 21 January 1872) was an Austrian writer who is chiefly known for his dramas. He also wrote the oration for Ludwig van Beethoven's funeral. His Diary and Correspondence, unpublished until 1903, revealed his affairs with men, and a long-term relationship with Georg Altmuller.
Franz Grillparzer was born in Vienna, Austria. His father, E. J. Grillparzer, was a severe pedant and a staunch upholder of the liberal traditions of the reign of Joseph II, and was an advocate of some standing. His mother, Anna Franziska, was a nervous, highly-strung woman, daughter of Christoph Sonnleithner.
His father destined Grillparzer for the legal profession, and, after a desultory education, Grillparzer entered the University of Vienna in 1807 as a student of jurisprudence. Two years later his father died, leaving the family in difficult circumstances. After obtaining his degree from the university in 1811, Franz first became a private tutor for a noble family; then in 1813, he entered the civil service as a clerk at the Imperial and Royal Hofkammer (Exchequer) in Austria. In 1821, he unsuccessfully applied to the position of scribe at the Imperial Library, and later that same year, he was relocated to the Ministry of Finance. In 1832, he became director of the archives at the Imperial and Royal Hofkammer, a position he held until his retirement in 1856. Grillparzer had little capacity for an official career and regarded his position merely as a means of independence.
FFrom early youth, Grillparzer displayed a strong literary impulse. He devoted especial attention to the Spanish drama, and nearly all his writings bear marks of the influence of Calderón. His autobiography, which was written in 1853 and brings down the narrative of his life to 1836, is a model of clear, simple, and elegant prose, and it throws much interesting light both on his personal character and on the tendencies of his time. Among his posthumous writings are many fragments of literary, philosophic, and political criticism, all of them indicating a strong and independent spirit, not invariably just, but distinct, penetrating, and suggestive.
It is characteristic of him that he expresses extreme dislike of Hegel's philosophy on the ground that its terms are unintelligible. On the other hand, he gives evidence of careful and sympathetic study of Kant. Of modern literary critics, Gervinus was most repugnant to him, mainly because of the tendency of this writer to attribute moral aims to authors who created solely for art's sake. He rather maliciously says that Gervinus had one advantage and one disadvantage in writing his history of German literature, – the advantage of common sense, the disadvantage of knowing nothing of his subject.
Of a quiet contemplative nature, Grillparzer shunned general society. He never married. To a stranger he seemed cold and distant, but in conversation with any one he liked his real disposition revealed itself; his manner became animated, his eyes brightened, and a sarcastic but not ill-natured smile would play upon his lips. It was one of his sayings that the art of writing poetry can neither be taught nor learned, but he also held that inspiration will not visit a poet who neglects to make himself master of his subject. Hence before writing a play he worked hard, striving to comprehend the spirit of the age he wished to represent. He was exceedingly fond of travel, and at different times visited all the leading European countries.
AAfter 1840, when his solitary comedy was rejected by the public, he almost passed from the memory of his contemporaries. Fortunately for him, his admirer Heinrich Laube settled in Vienna in 1849 as artistic director of the court theatre. By and by Laube reintroduced on the stage some of Grillparzer's forgotten works, and their success was immediate and profound. To his own surprise, Grillparzer became the most popular author of the day; he was ranked with Goethe and Schiller, and lauded as the national poet of Austria. On the eightieth anniversary of his birthday all classes from the court downwards united to do him honour; never, probably, did Vienna exert herself so much to prove her respect for a private citizen.
In 1836, Grillparzer paid a visit to Paris and London, in 1843 to Athens and Constantinople. Then came the Revolution which struck off the intellectual fetters under which Grillparzer and his contemporaries had groaned in Austria, but the liberation came too late for him. Honours were heaped upon him; he was made a member of the Academy of Sciences; Heinrich Laube, as director of the Burgtheater, reinstated his plays into the repertory; in 1861, he was elected to the Austrian Herrenhaus; his eightieth birthday was a national festival, and when he died in Vienna, on 21 January 1872, the mourning of the Austrian people was universal.
With the exception of a beautiful fragment, Esther (1861), Grillparzer published no more dramatic poetry after the fiasco of Weh dem, der lügt, but at his death three completed tragedies were found among his papers. Of these, The Jewess of Toledo (Die Jüdin von Toledo, written in 1851), an admirable adaptation from the Spanish, has won a permanent place in the German classical repertory; Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg is a powerful historical tragedy and Libussa is perhaps the most mature, as it is certainly the deepest, of all Grillparzer's dramas; the latter two plays prove how much was lost by the poet's divorce from the theatre.
He was buried with an amount of ceremony that surpassed even the pomp displayed at Klopstock's funeral. He was originally buried in the Währinger Cemetery in Vienna, now known as Schubertpark. He now lies at Hietzing Cemetery.
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