The Poet Jean Paul

Jean Paul

Jean Paul was born in Wunsiedel on March 21th 1763 (his name was actually Johann Paul Friederich Richter). He lived and worked from 1804 until his death on November 14th 1825 in Bayreuth. Without a doubt he was one of the most significant German poets.

His genius with words and his fanciful imaginativeness, his power of imagination, his flights of thoughts and pictures of dreams, his fantastic descriptions of nature and sensitive description of emotions are legendary.

As a bold visionary and enigmatic- humorous idyllist, an entrancing poet and worldly wise, a genius word creator and romantic thinker Jean Paul moves the mind and heart of people still today.

At the same time Jean Paul was a kind judge and friend of people, as seen in the caring description of original and whimsical figures like the famous school master Wuz.

His sketches of human character formation, of harmony, of peace and justice show him as the best example of the humane German.

Jean Paul and Bayreuth

He wrote about Bayreuth the much cited homage: “dear Bayreuth, your are presented to me on such a beautifully worked- green painted tray of the area, one should drill oneself into you to never be able to leave again.” Jean Paul often moved his stories, in his encyclopedic novels, to Bayreuth and the surrounding area. In the year 1902, the critic Alfred Kerr wrote in the guestbook of the Jean Paul poet room in the Rollwenzelei: “forget the Germans you today, you are the master of Bayreuth!”

This was a grand homage to Jean Paul but at the same time a strike against Richard Wagner.

Jean Paul moved since 1804 seven times during his life in Bayreuth before he moved in 1813 for the larger part- and the rest of his life to the second floor of the house in the Friederichstrasse 384 (today Nr. 5). Landlord since 1817 was the Jewish banker from Ansbach I.J. Schwabacher who lived on the first floor of the house.

Life and death of Jean Paul

Jean Paul gave little interest to his outward appearance. His wife Caroline complained bitterly that her husband owned a beautiful dressing gown but always wore the shabby old one. Beer and wine are Jean Paul`s essential elixirs since the turn of the century. The Bayreuth beer was not an item on the bottom of his list of arguments which spoke for Bayreuth as his final residence. However, the poet was not a drinker, as it so often likes to be generalized. He distributed his alcoholic mixtures according to plan, with great regularity throughout the day, for his drive to work. However he could not escape liver cirrhosis. Although he had retained a sparse nature as far as food, as in his youth, and his asking for potatoes, soup and salad is still touching today. Almost blind and plagued by ascites Jean Paul still deals with the planned total output of his works until his dying day. Only the last day, the nephew Otto Spazier (1803-1854) brought to help, finds him lying on the sofa. Their conversation continues until Jean Paul`s words “we want to let it go”. His death occurred around 8 o clock at night.

Ludwig Börne said in his commemorative speech amongst other things: “a star has vanished and the eye of the century will close before he reappears because the shining genius wanders in wide paths and only late grandchildren will joyfully welcome from which mourning fathers once crying parted….. He had not lived for everyone but his time will come when he will be born for all and they will all mourn him. But he stands patiently at the gates of the twentieth century and waits smiling until the slow moving masses follow him.