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Friedrich Martin Von Bodenstedt Biography | Poet

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BODENSTEDT, FRIEDRICH MARTIN VON (1819-1892), German author, was born at Peine, in Hanover, on the 22nd of April 1819. He studied in Göttingen, Munich and Berlin. His career was determined by his engagement in 1841 as tutor in the family of Prince Gallitzin at Moscow, where he gained a thorough knowledge of Russian. This led to his appointment in 1844 as the head of a public school at Tiflis, in Transcaucasia. He took the opportunity of his proximity to Persia to study Persian literature, and in 1851 published a volume of original poetry in oriental guise under the fanciful title, Die Lieder des Mirza Schaffy (English trans. by E. d’Esterre, 1880). The success of this work can only be compared with that of Edward FitzGerald’s Omar Khayyam, produced in somewhat similar circumstances, but differed from it in being immediate. It has gone through 160 editions in Germany, and has been translated into almost all literary languages. Nor is this celebrity undeserved, for although Bodenstedt does not attain the poetical elevation of FitzGerald, his view of life is wider, more cheerful and more sane, while the execution is a model of grace. On his return from the East, Bodenstedt engaged for a while in journalism, married the daughter of a Hessian officer (Matilde, the Edlitam of his poems), and was in 1854 appointed professor of Slavonic at Munich. The rich stores of knowledge which Bodenstedt brought back from the East were turned to account in two important books, Die Völker des Kaukasus und ihre Freiheits-Kämpfe gegen die Russen (1848), and Tausend und ein Tag im Orient(1850). For some time Bodenstedt continued to devote himself to Slavonic subjects, producing translations of Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgweniev, and of the poets of the Ukraines, and writing a tragedy on the false Demetrius, and an epic, Ada die Lesghierin, on a Circassian theme. Finding, probably, this vein exhausted, he exchanged his professorship in 1858 for one of Early English literature, and published (1858-1860) a valuable work on the English dramatists contemporary with Shakespeare, with copious translations. In 1862 he produced a standard translation of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and between 1866 and 1872 published a complete version of the plays, with the help of many coadjutors. In 1867 he undertook the direction of the court theatre at Meiningen, and was ennobled by the duke. After 1873 he lived successively at Altona, Berlin and Wiesbaden, where he died on the 19th of April 1892. His later works consist of an autobiography (1888), successful translations from Hafiz and Omar Khayyam, and lyrics and dramas which added little to his reputation.

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