Wilhelm Raabe

Wilhelm Raabe

Wilhelm Raabe (September 8, 1831 – November 15, 1910) was a German novelist. His early works were published under the pseudonym of Jakob Corvinus.


He was born in Eschershausen (then in the Duchy of Brunswick, now in the Holzminden District). After attending gymnasia in Holzminden and Wolfenbüttel, he entered a bookstore in Magdeburg as apprentice in 1849. He used this opportunity for wide reading and enriched himself with the tales and folklore of his own and other countries. He remained an apprentice until 1854.

Tiring of the routine of business, he then studied philosophy at Berlin (1855–1857). While a student at that university, under his pseudonym he published his first work, Die Chronik der Sperlingsgasse (1857). This book, which contains sketches of life among the German bourgeoisie, at once attained to great popularity.

With this encouragement, Raabe gave up his studies and devoted himself entirely to literary work. He returned to Wolfenbüttel, and then lived (1862–1870) in Stuttgart. Then he again returned to Brunswick and remained active until the end of the century, publishing upwards of 30 novels and a number of short stories and sketches.


Painting by Wilhelm Immelkamp, 1909

Raabe's life work may be divided into three periods. During the first, he wrote with a light touch, producing a series of pictures of German life from the abundance of his imagination and experience, among which are:

The influence of the pessimism of Schopenhauer is evident during the second period. Representative works of this period are:

These three works are sometimes referred to as a trilogy. While they are independent of each other in substance, they do represent a distinct epoch in the life of Raabe.

During the third period of the novelist's life his works no longer show this pessimistic strain. A genial humor pervades them, reminiscent of Dickens, though they frequently deal with serious subjects. Horacker (1876) perhaps best represents this tendency, and has been cited as his masterpiece. Der Dräumling (1872), and Deutscher Mondschein (1873), also come under this head. Of his numerous later works Das Odfeld (1889) and Die Akten des Vogelsangs (1895) seemed to be most read. Kloster Lugau (1894) and Hastenbeck (1899) also belong to this period

Raabe's early works were influenced to some extent by Jean Paul. Later he shows evidences of having read Dickens and Thackeray.

His estimation by the German people was especially shown at the celebration of his 70th birthday in 1901. Beginning in 1965, the critical edition of Raabe's complete works was published as Sämtliche Werke (Braunschweiger Ausgabe) commissioned by the Braunschweigischen Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft and edited by Karl Hoppe.


Wilhelm Raabe the painter

"Farmer's cottage in a heath landscape", oil painting, 37.0 x 23.2 cm.[1]

In addition to writing, Wihelm Raabe also had a less known talent for painting.[2] Approximately 600 of his drawings exist, partially in private ownership of his descendants or with the Braunschweig Museum.


  1. Jahrbuch der Raabe-Gesellschaft 1990, p. 74, Friedhelm Henrich, Ein spätes Ölbild Wilhelm Raabes
  2. Hans-Werner Peter, Wilhelm Raabe. Der Dichter in seinen Federzeichnungen und Skizzen, Rosenheimer Raritäten


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