Hölderlin, Friedrich

BORN 29 Mar 1770, Lauffen am Neckar, Württemberg - DIED 7 Jun 1843, Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg
BIRTH NAME Hölderlin, Johann Christian Friedrich
GRAVE LOCATION Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg: Stadtfriedhof, Gmelinstrasse 20 (E X 05)

Friedrich Hölderlin lost his father Heinrich Friedrich Hölderlin when he was only two years old. His mother married the wine merchant Johann Christoph Gok in 1774. The family moved to Nürtingen where Friedrich grew up.

His mother was the daughter of a preacher and according to her wish he visited the Latin School in Nürtingen and cloister schools afterwards. During his studies at the University of Tübingen he befriended Hegel and Schelling. He was also very fond of his teacher Nathanael Köstlin.

He decided not to enter the church and became a private teacher instead. In 1793 he worked for Charlotte von Kalb. Possibly he had a child with Wilhelmine Kirms, who worked for Charlotte as well. In 1794 he attended readings by Fichte in Jena and there he met Goethe as well as Schiller. He also met Novalis.

In 1796 he became house teacher to the children of the banker Jakob Gontard. From 1797 to 1799 his "Hyperion oder Der Eremit in Griechenland" was published. He started an affair with Gontard's wife Susette, who became the model for Diotima in his "Hyperion". After they were found out he fled to Homburg in 1798 and he continued to see Susette once a month in secret. With the help of Schiller he published some of his poems but his financial situation was difficult. In 1800 he saw Susette for the last time. By that time he sufffering from hypochondria.

He travelled to Switzerland and Bordeaux for teaching jobs but without success. On his way home to Württemberg he heard that Susette had died in 1802. He returned to his mother in Nürtingen. He obtained a job as court librarian in Homburg in 1804.

In 1805 he was accused of being a conspirator. He was arrested and tried for treason, but the trial was led to nothing when it became clear that he had probably gone insane. Treatment at the clinic of the University in Tübingen followed. Justinus Kerner was among those who took care of him at that time. In 1807 it was concluded that recovery was inpossible. It was expected that he hadn't long to live and he was taken under the wing of Ernst Zimmers, who admired his "Hyperion". Supported by the family he lived at what is now known as the Hölderlinturm. In 1828 his mother died.

He continued to write poetry. After 1829 he became something of a tourist attraction and he was frequently visited by travellers and other strangers. Odten he wrote poems for his visitors. After Ernst Zimmer died he was taken care of by his daughter Lotte Zimmer. between 1841 and 1843 he was visited several times by Christoph Theodor Schwab and this led to new poetical activity by Hölderlin. He died in 1843 and was buried at the Stadtfriedhof.

In 1846 Schwab published a biography on Hölderlin, but his poetry wasn't widely read during his lifetime and almost forgotten after his death. In 1913 Norbert von Hellingrath started republishing his work. Rilke had met Von Hellingrath and in 1912 he had published his first Duino Elegies. This led to Hölderlin's work being rediscovered and more editions of his work followed.

Related persons
• knew Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
• was a friend of Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
• was a friend of Kalb, Charlotte von
• was a friend of Schiller, Friedrich von
• was a friend of Waiblinger, Wilhelm


The grave of Friedrich Hölderlin at the Stadtfriedhof, Tübingen.
Picture by Androom (30 Jan 2010)


• Aubert, Joachim, Handbuch der Grabstätten berühmten Deutscher, Österreicher und Schweizer, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, 1973
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Friedrich Hölderlin – Wikipedia

Holdsworth, Annie E.

Published: 18 Jun 2016
Last update: 24 Feb 2022