Johann Peter Eckermann  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Only the perverse fantasy can still save us.” — Goethe, to Eckerman

Johann Peter Eckermann (September 21, 1792 – December 3, 1854), German poet and author, best known owing to his association with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, was born at Winsen in Hanover, of humble parentage, and was brought up in penury and privation.

After serving as a volunteer in the War of Liberation (1813-1814), he obtained a secretarial appointment under the war department at Hanover. In 1817, although twenty-five years of age, he was enabled to attend the gymnasium of Hanover and afterwards the university of Göttingen, which, however, after one year's residence as a student of law, he left in 1822.

His acquaintance with Goethe began in the following year, when he sent to him the manuscript of his Beiträge zur Poesie (1823). Soon afterwards he went to Weimar, where he supported himself as a private tutor. For several years he also instructed the son of the grand duke. In 1830 he travelled in Italy with Goethe's son. In 1838 he was given the title of grand-ducal councillor and appointed librarian to the grand-duchess.

Eckermann is chiefly remembered for his important contributions to the knowledge of the great poet contained in his Conversations with Goethe (1836-1848). To Eckermann Goethe entrusted the publication of his Nachgelassene Schriften (posthumous works) (1832-1833). He was also joint-editor with Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer (1774-1845) of the complete edition of Goethe's works in 40 vols (1839-1840). He died at Weimar on the 3rd of December 1854.

Eckermann's Gespräche mit Goethe (vols: i. and ii. 1836; vol. iii. 1848; 7th ed., Leipzig, 1899; best edition by Ludwig Geiger, Leipzig, 1902) have been translated into almost all the European languages. (English translations by Margaret Fuller, Boston, 1839, and John Oxenford, London, 1850.)

Besides this work and the Beiträge zur Poesie, Eckermann published a volume of poems (Gedichte, 1838), which are of little value. See J. P. Eckermanns Nachlaß edited by Friedrich Tewes, vol. i. (1905), and an article by RM Meyer in the Goethe-Jahrbuch, xvii. (1896).

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