E. T. A. Hoffmann  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

E. T. A. Hoffmann (24 January 1776 – 25 June 1822) was a German writer of fantasy and horror, a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist. He is the subject and hero of Jacques Offenbach's famous but fictional opera The Tales of Hoffmann, and the author of the novelette The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the famous ballet The Nutcracker is based. The ballet Coppelia is based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote. Also Schumann's Kreisleriana is based on one of Hoffmann's characters.

Hoffmann's stories were very influential during the 19th century, and he is one of the major authors of the Romantic movement.



Although Hoffmann's stories were tremendously influential in the 19th century, and he is considered one of the key authors of the Romantic movement, his works have been said to have been adapted into oblivion. The conte fantastique was introduced in France by Jean-Jacques Ampère with the latter's 1829 translation of Hoffmann's Fantasy Pieces in the Manner of Callot (1814). Whether American author Edgar Allan Poe was directly influenced by Hoffmann, remains debatable, although The Devil's Elixirs had been available in English since 1824.

Hoffmann's legacy is as one of the best-known representatives of German Romanticism, and a pioneer of the fantasy genre, with a taste for the macabre combined with realism that influenced such authors as Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Nikolai Gogol. Hoffmann's work illuminates the darker side of the human spirit found behind the hypocritic harmony of bourgeois life. Sir Walter Scott in the "On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition" (1827), his extended discussion of Hoffmann and literary supernaturalism, concludes that Hoffmann needs medical attention more than he needs literary criticism, and Sigmund Freud made Hoffman's "The Sandman" the center of his essay on "The Uncanny." Hoffmann, although strongly influenced by Gothic literature, is probably best regarded as a writer of the fantastique rather than a "Gothic" or "horror" writer.


See list of works by E. T. A. Hoffmann

Hoffmann wrote novels and short stories, and he composed music, including an opera, Undine (1814). However, when reading the original text of E. T. A. Hoffmann's stories, one soon realizes that these stories were conceived and written at a very sensitive time politically. Comparable messages were expressed in earlier animal stories such as Reinicke Fuchs or Aesop's Fables. His most familiar story is Nussknacker und Mausekönig ("Nutcracker and Mouse King", 1816), which inspired Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker (1892). His story Der Sandmann ("The Sandman", 1816) similarly inspired Delibes's ballet Coppélia (1870).

The Nutcracker story is full of charming mimed phantasies with Marie (Clara in the ballet), Fritz and Pate Drosselmayr, the mean Mouse King and the popular Nutcracker. Many versions of have been published as children's books. Nutcracker performances have become a yearly feature in many cities around Christmas. Yet these stories, as with the majority of his literary work, point beyond themselves in philosophical terms; Hoffmann invariably moves into territory where an exploration of the nature of Selfhood, Art and value-judgements are required in order for the reader to enjoy Hoffmann's writings more fully. Stories are, in their various media, the ultimate form of self-definition and world-interpretation; it is through stories that Hoffmann expresses his aesthetic, ethical and political concerns. Moreover, the original Hoffmann stories (including the Nutcracker) often have dark themes.


  • Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier (collection of previously published stories, 1814)
  • Die Elixiere des Teufels (1815)
  • Nachtstücke (1817)
    • Der Sandmann, Das Gelübde, Ignaz Denner, Die Jesuiterkirche in G.
    • Das Majorat, Das öde Haus, Das Sanctus, Das steinerne Herz
  • Seltsame Leiden eines Theater-Direktors (1819)
  • Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober (1819)
  • Die Serapionsbrüder (1819)
    • Der Einsiedler Serapion, Rat Krespel, Die Fermate, Der Dichter und der Komponist
    • Ein Fragment aus dem Leben dreier Freunde, Der Artushof, Die Bergwerke zu Falun, Nußknacker und Mausekönig (1816)
    • Der Kampf der Sänger, Eine Spukgeschichte, Die Automate, Doge und Dogaresse
    • Alte und neue Kirchenmusik, Meister Martin der Küfner und seine Gesellen, Das fremde Kind
    • Nachricht aus dem Leben eines bekannten Mannes, Die Brautwahl, Der unheimliche Gast
    • Das Fräulein von Scuderi, Spielerglück (1819), Der Baron von B.
    • Signor Formica, Zacharias Werner, Erscheinungen
    • Der Zusammenhang der Dinge, Vampirismus, Die ästhetische Teegesellschaft, Die Königsbraut
  • Prinzessin Brambilla (1820)
  • Lebensansichten des Katers Murr (1820)
  • Die Irrungen (1820)
  • Die Geheimnisse (1821)
  • Die Doppeltgänger (1821)
  • Meister Floh (1822)
  • Des Vetters Eckfenster (1822)


Vocal Music

  • Messa d-moll (1805)
  • Trois Canzonettes à 2 et à 3 voix (1807)
  • 6 Canzoni per 4 voci alla capella (1808)
  • Miserere b-moll (1809)
  • In des Irtisch weiße Fluten (Kotzebue), Lied (1811)
  • Recitativo ed Aria „Prendi l’acciar ti rendo“ (1812)
  • Tre Canzonette italiane (1812); 6 Duettini italiani (1812)
  • Nachtgesang, Türkische Musik, Jägerlied, Katzburschenlied für Männerchor (1819-21)

Works for stage

  • Die Maske (Libretto: E. T. A. Hoffmann), Singspiel (1799)
  • Die lustigen Musikanten (Libretto: Clemens Brentano), Singspiel (1804)
  • Bühnenmusik zu Zacharias Werners Trauerspiel „Das Kreuz an der Ostsee“ (1805)
  • Liebe und Eifersucht (Calderón and August Wilhelm Schlegel) (1807)
  • Arlequin, Ballettmusik (1808)
  • Der Trank der Unsterblichkeit (Libretto: Julius von Soden), romantische Oper (1808)
  • Wiedersehn! (Libretto: E. T. A. Hoffmann), Prolog (1809)
  • Dirna (Libretto: Julius von Soden), Melodram (1809)
  • Bühnenmusik zu Julius von Sodens Drama „Julius Sabinus“ (1810)
  • Saul, König von Israel (Libretto: Joseph von Seyfried), Melodram (1811)
  • Aurora (Libretto: Franz von Holbein) heroische Oper (1812)
  • Undine (Libretto: Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué), Zauberoper (1814)
  • Der Liebhaber nach dem Tode (beginning only)


  • Rondo für Klavier (1794/95)
  • Ouvertura. Musica per la chiesa d-moll (1801)
  • Klaviersonaten: A-Dur, f-moll, F-Dur, f-moll, cis-moll (1805-1808)
  • Große Fantasie für Klavier (1806)
  • Sinfonie Es-Dur (1806)
  • Harfenquintett c-moll (1807)
  • Grand Trio E-Dur (1809)
  • Walzer zum Karolinentag (1812)
  • Teutschlands Triumph in der Schlacht bei Leipzig, (by "Arnulph Vollweiler", 1814; lost)
  • Serapions-Walzer (1818-1821)

References to Hoffmann in other fiction

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "E. T. A. Hoffmann" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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