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Friedrich Hölderlin

Friedrich Hölderlin

*  1770 Lauffen am Neckar
† 1843 Tübingen

The German lyricist, was born in 1770 in Lauffen am Neckar, the son of a monastery's caretaker and a pastor's daughter. After his father's early death and on his mother's wish that he become a priest, Hölderlin attended the Latin grammar school in Nürtingen and the evangelical monastic schools in Denkendort and Maulbronn. While studying at the University of Tübingen, where he received a stipend from the Tübinger Foundation, Hölderlin befriended his fellow students Hegel and Schelling. They influenced each other in their artistic endeavours. Hölderlin met the German author Friedrich Schiller in 1793/1794. Through him, Hölderlin a position as a tutor for the family of Charlotte von Kalb in Waltershausen im Grabfeld. He began studying theology at the University of Jena in 1794, where he met Johann Wolfgang Goethe as well as some of the early Romantic writers. he starting working as a tutor again in 1796, this time for the family of the Frankfurt banker Jakob Gontard. Here he became acquainted with Gontard's wife, Susette, with whom he fell in love and who later influenced the character Diotima in his epistolary novel "Hyperion." After this became obvious, Hölderlin fled to Homburg to his friend Isaac von Sinclair. During his financial troubles, his mother and his patron Schiller supported him for a time. He went to Hauptwil, Switzerland for three months in 1801, where he tutored the younger sister of the businessman Emanuel von Gonzenbach. In 1802 he worked in Bordeaux, France, as the tutor for the children of the Consul from Hamburg, the wine merchant Meyer. Hölderlin returned to Swabia after only a few months. When he returned to Stuttgart, his physical condition had so worsened that, on account of his confused state, even his friends did not recognize him. At this time, the news of Susette Gontard's death from rubella reached him. Hölderlin then returned to his mother in Nürtingen to work on his translations of Sophokles and Pindar, according to whose model Hölderlin conceived his own songs. His friend Sinclair, the head of the government of Hesse-Homburg, gave Hölderlin a position as court librarian in 1804, where he wrote, among others, the hymn "Patmos" for the Landgrave Friedrich V von Hessen-Homburg. He published his "Nighthymns" and his most famous poem "Halves of Life" in 1805. His friend Sinclair was arrested for high treason by Elector Friedrich II von Württemberg, and Hölderlin was suspected as a co-conspirator. Only the official health report on Hölderlin by the Homburg doctor and court apothecary Müller prevented Hölderlin's extradition. In the report from April 9, 1805, he was described as having succumbed to insanity, his nerves shattered. He was then brought to the Authenrieth Clinic in Tübingen. Two years later, he taken into the care of the family of Ernst Zimmer, a carpenter in Tübingen. He lived the remaining 36 years of his life in a tearoom in the so-called Hölderlin Tower in Zimmer's house overlooking the Neckar Valley.