Dehmel, Richard 1863-1920

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DEHMEL, Richard 1863-1920

PERSONAL: Born November 18, 1863, in Wendisch-Hermsdorf, Germany; died from thrombosis February 8, 1920, in Hamburg-Blankenese, Germany; son of Fedor (a forester) and Louise (Fliessschmidt) Dehmel; married Paula Oppenheimer (a writer), 1889 (divorced, 1899); married Ida Coblenzer Auerbach, 1901; children: (first marriage) one son, two daughters. Education: Studied philosophy, literature, natural sciences, and economics at Danzig University; Leipzig University, Ph.D., 1887.

CAREER: Zentralverband Deutscher Privater Feuerversicherungen (fire insurance company), Berlin, Germany, secretary, 1887-95; freelance writer, beginning 1895. Cofounder of art newspaper Pan, 1895; founder of Kleiststiftung (Kleist Foundation), 1912. Military service: Served in Germany military during World War I, until 1916.


Erloesungen: Eine Seelenwanderung in Gedichten undSprüchen (poems; title means "Releases"), 1891.

Aber die Liebe (poems and stories; title means "But Love"), 1893.

Der Mitmensch (play), 1895.

Lebensblätter (poems and stories), 1895.

Weib und Welt (poems; title means "Woman and World"), 1896.

Lucifer: Ein Tanz-und Glanzspiel (play), 1899.

(With wife, Paula Dehmel) Fitzebutze: Traumspiel in fünf Aufzügen (for children), illustrated by Ernst Kreidolf, c. 1900.

Zwei Menschen: Roman in Romanzen (epic poem; title means "Two People"), 1903.

Die Verwandlungen der Venus (poems; title means "The Transformations of Venus"), 1907.

Betrachtungen über Kunst, Gott und die Welt, 1909.

Gesammelte Werke (title means "Collected Works"), ten volumes, 1906-1909.

Michel Michael (play), 1911.

Blinde Liebe, 1912.

Schöne wilde Welt (poems; title means "Beautiful, Wild World"), 1913.

Volksstimme-Gottesstimme, 1914.

Die Menschenfreunde (play), 1917.

Kriegsbrevier, 1917.

Kriegstagbuch: zwischen Volk und Menschheit (title means "War Diary: Between the People and Humanity"), 1919.

Die Götterfamilie (play; title means "The Family of Gods"), 1921.

Ausgewählte Briefe (title means "Selected Letters"), two volumes, 1922-23.

Mein Leben (autobiography), 1922.

Bekenntnisse, 1926.

Also editor of a complete edition of Detlev von Liliencron's previously unpublished works, c. 1910.

ADAPTATIONS: Fitzebutze: Traumspiel in fünf Aufzügen was set to music by Hermann Zilcher, 1900.

SIDELIGHTS: Considered one of the leading German poets of his time, Richard Dehmel was greatly influenced by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, though he would later turn away from Nietsche's teachings. He celebrated individualism and unrestrained passion, which often conflicted with his belief in strict self-discipline. Dehmel's lyric verse was powerful, even revolutionary for its time, and he inspired such writers as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, and Hermann Hesse.

Dehmel's earlier efforts are more spontaneous than his later, more structured and intellectual works. Associated with the Jugendstil (art nouveau) literary movement that developed in Germany at the turn of the nineteenth century, he lived in Berlin, where he befriended and was influenced by a variety of artists, writers, and musicians, including the brothers Heinrich and Julius Hart, Otto Erich Hartleben, Arno Holz, Edvard Munch, and August Strindberg. He was also a close friend of writer Detlev von Liliencron, and after Liliencron's death in 1909, he edited and prepared a complete edition of Liliencron's yet-unpublished works.

Dehmel was both a naturalist and a visionary. He rejected the poetic conventions of his time and prepared the way for expressionism through his innovations in form and content. He was also one of the first major poets to write about the misery of the working classes. Despite the diversity of his literary output—poems, novellas, children's stories, fairytales, essays, translations, and plays—he is best remembered for his lyric poetry. He began writing poems while working for an insurance company from which he resigned once he had published his first two volumes of poetry. He gained public celebrity when the 1896 poem "Venus Consolatrix." Some of his poems were even set to music by such artists as Richard Strauss. Many of his works, while by no means erotic, were sensual in nature, following Dehmel's belief in the importance of man's ability to commune with woman in order to overcome loneliness and isolation. He also saw this communion as elevating one towards ever higher levels of spirituality, eventually achieving the divine level of universal love. These ideas are expressed in his masterpiece, Zwei Menschen.

With a personal life sometimes described as having been as tempestuous as his literary work, Dehmel was married for ten years to fairytale writer Paula Oppenheimer, with whom he had three children and collaborated on a popular children's book of verse. After divorcing his first wife, he married Ida Auberbach in 1901 and traveled extensively throughout Europe with her. His work Weib und Welt, considered controversial by critics when first published, was inspired by his relationship with Ida.

Though he was rejected for military service as young man, Dehmel was allowed to join the German military at the age of fifty-one to fight in World War I. After the war, he advocated the formation of an "iron guard" in which only volunteers would be allowed to serve. Severely disillusioned by his war experiences, Dehmel's diary Kriegstagebuch: zwischen Volk und Menschheit reflects his attitudes about war.

As he entered the last years of his life, Dehmel had a home built for himself and Ida in 1912. Based on his own architectural designs, the Dehmel House is located in Hamburg-Blankenese, where he died in 1920.



Fontane Blätter, Volume 3, number 3, 1974, Helmuth Nürnberger, "Theodor Fontanes Briefe an Richard Dehmel," pp. 189-199.

Hofmannsthal Blätter, Volume 5, 1970, Martin Stern, "Hofmannsthals Antwort auf Richard Dehmels Weltpolitischen 'Warnruf' 1918," pp. 379-387.

Jahrbuch der Deutschen Schiller Gesellschaft, Volume 12, 1968, Horst H. W. Müller, "Richard Dehmel und Ernst Wilhelm Lotz: Mit zwei erstveröffentlichten Lotz-Briefen an Dehmel," pp. 88-93.

Kleist Jahrbuch, 1986, Elisabeth Hoepker-Herberg, "Noch einmal: Richard Dehmel und der Kleist-Preis 1912: Materialien aus dem Dehmel-Archiv," pp. 179-199.

Phaedrus, Volume 11, 1985, Susanne Mgeladse, "The Insel Verlag's First Picture Book for Children: 'Fitzebutze', " pp. 17-22.

Weimarer Beitrage, Volume 33, number 6, 1987, Dorothea Gelbrich, "Richard Dehmels Gedichte für Kinder," pp. 1004-1019.

Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie, Volume 83, number 2, 1964, Joachim Birke, "Unbekannte Skizzen Dehmels zu einem Drama 'Drei Helden,'" pp. 129-142.


Richard Dehmel Web site, (April 19, 2001).*