Voss, Johann Heinrich

BORN 20 Feb 1751, Sommersdorf, Mecklenburg - DIED 29 Mar 1826, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg
GRAVE LOCATION Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg: Bergfriedhof, Rohrbacher Strasse (Abteilung D)

Johann Heinrich Voss was the illegitimate son of Johann Heinrich Voss (1714-1778) and Katharina Dorothea Karsten (1718-1798), the daughter of an organist. Shortly after his birth his parents married. His father was a former valet who worked settled in Penzlin and worked as a customs collector, an innkeeper and a schoolmaster. Voss was educated in Penzlin and in Neubrandenburg. There was no money to study and he started working as a tutor in Ankershagen. After submitting poems to the Göttinger Musenalmanach in 1771 he started a correspondence with its publisher Heinrich Christian Boie (1744-1806). Invited by Boie he studied theology and philology at the University of Göttingen. He was a founder of the poets' association Göttinger Hainbund. Together with his friend Ernst Brückner in 1773 he slandered Christoph Martin Wieland whose work they considered to be outdated.

Voss left university without a degree and he travelled to Hamburg to meet Boie's youngest sister Ernestine (1756-1834) and Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803). In 1774 he joined a Masonic lodge in Hamburg and he was a freemason until he left in 1786 after a dispute. Also in 1774 he took over the editorship of the Musenalmanach and he published it until 1800. He lived near Klopstock in Wandsbek and in 1777 his finances allowed him to marry Ernestine. In 1781 his German translation of the Odyssey was published and it was highly acclaimed.

In 1782 he became the rector of the grammar school in Eutin. He was appointed Hofrat (councillor to the court). He travelled frequently and met Goethe, Wieland and Herder. In 1802 he asked for retirement and from 1802 to 1805 he lived in Jena without official functions. Goethe was sorry to see him go when he accepted a professorship at the University of Heidelberg. Among the guests he welcomed in Heidelberg were Goethe and Jean Paul. In 1808 he became a member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and in 1814 a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences.

He died in 1826 in Heidelberg and was buried at the St. Anna Cemetery. After that cemetery was closed and sold his remains were reburied at the Bergfriedhof in 1875.

• Wife: Voss, Ernestine (1777-1826)

Related persons
• quarreled with Brentano, Clemens
• was visited by Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
• was a friend of Hölty, Ludwig Christoph Heinrich
• was visited by Jean Paul
• was a friend of Klopstock, Friedrich Gottlieb
• insulted Wieland, Christoph Martin


The grave of Johann Heinrich Voss and Ernestine Voss at the Bergfriedhof, Heidelberg.
Picture by Androom (21 Aug 2010)


Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Johann Heinrich Voß – Wikipedia

Vulpius, Christian August

Published: 06 Aug 2023
Last update: 10 Dec 2023