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Birch-Pfeiffer, Charlotte (1800–1868)

Birch-Pfeiffer, Charlotte (1800–1868)

German playwright and actress. Born Charlotte Karoline Pfeiffer in Stuttgart, Germany, on June 23, 1800; died in Berlin on August 24, 1868; daughter of an estate agent named Pfeiffer; married Christian A. Birch (historian), in 1825; children:Wilhelmine von Hillern (a writer).

Selected works:

Das Pfefferrösel (1833); Gesammelte Dramatische Werke (Collected Dramatic Works in 23 volumes, 1863–1880).

Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer's entire adult life was spent working for the theater, beginning with her debut on stage in Munich at age 18. In her early career, she toured Europe, appearing as the lead in tragic roles. Though she had married the historian Christian Birch of Copenhagen in 1825, she continued to act. From 1837 to 1843, the family settled in Zurich where, for six years, Birch-Pfeiffer managed the Zurich theater. In 1844, she accepted an engagement at the royal theatre in Berlin; she remained there until her death on August 24, 1868.

Hillern, Wilhelmine von (1836–1916)

German novelist. Born in Munich, Germany, on March 11, 1836; daughter of Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer and C.A. Birch; married Baron von Hillern, in 1857 (died 1882).

German novelist Wilhelmine von Hillern began her career as an actress but retired from the stage upon her marriage in 1857. After 1889, she lived in Oberammergau and won fame as a novelist. Her most popular works are Ein Arzt der Seele (1869, 4th ed. 1886), and Die Geier-Wally (1883), which was dramatized and translated into English as The Vulture Maiden (1876).

Birch-Pfeiffer's popular novels and tales, Gesammelte Novellen und Erzählungen, were collected in three volumes (1863–1865). Her intimate knowledge of stage structure and technique prepared her for the successful dramatization of many of these novels, which were often visibly adapted from novels or short stories by recognized authors such as Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë , Victor Hugo, George Sand , and George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans ). Her 70 plays, adapted and original, fill 23 volumes, Gesammelte dramatische Werke (1863–1880). Though short on critical success, her plays were popular well into the 20th century.

Crista Martin , freelance writer, Boston, Massachusetts

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