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The Turbulent Life and Times of a Northern German Poet

Lewis M. Holmes

The poet, preacher, and university professor Ludwig Gotthard (Theobul) Kosegarten (1758-1818) lived most of his life in a region on the Baltic Sea known as Swedish Pomerania. This popular writer participated actively in German culture, interacting with Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang Goethe, as well as other literary figures and intellectuals, including Ernst Moritz Arndt and Friedrich Schleiermacher. Kosegarten helped to shape the aesthetic attitudes of German Romantic art, and his poetry was set to music by three dozen composers, including Franz Schubert. During the French occupation, when German national feelings were running high, Kosegarten shocked his contemporaries by speaking out courageously against patriotic excess. He welcomed the social reforms that were beginning to free serfs and to establish equality under the law. In 1817, German nationalists burned his books and tarred his reputation. This book, which is based on a close reading of his works, is the first detailed biography of Kosegarten to be published in English.