Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Amadeus

BORN 24 Jan 1776, Königsberg (now: Kaliningrad) - DIED 24 Jul 1822, Berlin
BIRTH NAME Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Wilhelm
GRAVE LOCATION Berlin: Kirchhof Jerusalem und Neue Kirche III, Mehringdamm 21 (Halleschen Tor), Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (1/1-32-6 (311-32-6), Ehrengrab)

Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann changed his third name to Amadeus because of his adoration for Mozart. He was the son of a lawyer in Königsberg. After the separation of his parents he was raised by O.W. Doerffer, a brother of his mother.

By 1792 it was clear that he was exceptionally talented and that his knowledge was greatly superior to that of other people of his age. He entered Königsberg University and already took his first exams as early as 1795. By that time, he had also started to draw and to paint.

His mother died in 1796 and he went to live with another uncle, whom he followed to Berlin in 1798. There he met C.M. von Weber and he wrote his first composition. In 1802 he entered a job at the Court of Law in Posen. Instead of marrying his fiancée Minna Doerffer he broke the engagement because he expected that they would both be unhappy (for many years he had loved another woman, Cora Hatt). In 1802 he married a pretty Polish girl, Maria Thekla Michaelina Rorer-Tracinska. In 1804 he became a judge in Warshaw. There he met Julius Hitzig, author of the first Hoffmann biography. In 1806 the French were in Warshaw, his young daughter Cäcilia had died, and his wife was seriously ill. He was near the point of collapse when he was rescued by his friend and former classmate Theodor Gottlieb Hippel (1775-1843).

In 1808 he moved to Bamberg with his wife. There he became musical director and theatre architect, but he was haunted by his fascination for the 16-year-old Julia Mark, the daughter of a family where he taught music. Her mother was so alarmed that she quickly married her daughter off to Hamburg. He thought of committing suicide, but after he was offered an engagement as musical director at Joseph Seconda's opera company in Dresden and Leipzig in 1813 he left Bamberg for Dresden.

He loved the beauty of that city and his financial position improved. But after a quarrel with Seconda he also worked in Leipzig, but after a quarrel in 1814 he was lost his job and was out on the streets once more. Hippel rescued him again and helped him to a job in Berlin, where he worked at the Kammergericht. Apart from opera's and plays Hoffman authored sinister novels and short stories. He was famous for his power of imagination as well as his drinking habits. In July 1816 his opera "Undine" was a huge success in Berlin, but after twenty performances the theatre burned down and the original material for the opera went down with it. The opera was praised by Carl Maria von Weber in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung.

Hoffmann died a few days after completing his "Des Vetters Eckfenster". Ludwig Devrient sat at his grave for weeks and reportedly he shouted, "come out!" with a bottle of liquor in his hand. Hoffmann's estate was auctioned off soon afterwards and part of it was acquired by his friend Julius Eduard Hitzig.

Hoffmann's writings were an important influence on writers like Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. Work: "Undine" (opera, 1812-1814); "Die Abenteuer der Silvester-Nacht" (1815); "Die Elixire des Teufels" (2 volumes, 1815-1816).

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15/6/1810Beethoven's music to Goethe's "Egmont" is first performed at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Amalie Adamberger sang the parts that Beethoven had written with her in mind. The first part, the Ouvertüre, became so well known that it was often performed apart from Goethe's play. Goethe and E.T.A. Hoffmann praised Beethoven's music. [Adamberger, Antonie][Beethoven, Ludwig van][Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von]
3/8/1816Premiere of ETA Hoffmann's opera "Undine" at the Königlichen Schauspielhaus in Berlin. The libretto was written by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. The set was designed by Karl Friedrich schinkel. The opera is considered as the first 'romantic' German opera. [Motte-Fouqué, Friedrich Heinrich Karl, Freiherr de la ][Schinkel, Karl Friedrich]


The grave of E.T.A. Hoffmann at the Kirchhof Jerusalem und Neue Kirche III, Halleschen Tor, Kreuzberg, Berlin.
Picture by Androom (18 Aug 1996)


The grave of E.T.A. Hoffmann at the Kirchhof Jerusalem und Neue Kirche III, Halleschen Tor, Kreuzberg, Berlin.
Picture by Androom (08 Apr 2003)


Statue of E.T.A. Hoffmann and his cat at the Schillerplatz in Bamberg.
Picture by Androom (17 Aug 2018)


• Hammer, Klaus, Historische Friedhöfe & Grabmäler in Berlin, Stattbuch Verlag, Berlin, 1994
The Times
Musik zu Goethes Trauerspiel Egmont – Wikipedia
Undine (Hoffmann) – Wikipedia

Hoffmann, Heinrich

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 28 Apr 2024