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Annette Elisabeth, Baroness von Hülshoff

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A poetess; born at Schloss Hülshoff near Münster in Westphalia, 10 January, 1797; died 24 May, 1848. After the death of her father, Baron Clemens August von Droste-Hülshoff (1826), she passed most of her life at Rüschhaus near Münster. The monotony of this lonely life was broken, however, by prolonged visits to her brother-in-law's estates at Meersburg on Lake Constance, where she died.

Born prematurely, the poetess had a powerful mind in a delicate, sickly frame, a condition from which she suffered all her life. The most remarkable of her many mental gifts was an inexhaustible imagination combined with keen powers of observation and the faculty of reproducing her poetic concept in quaint and facile language. She was also stimulated in many ways by her congenial relations with both her maternal uncles, August and Werner von Haxthausen, who brought her in touch with the romantic movement. Her first training in poetic composition she received from the poet of the Hainbund, A. M. Sprickmann, professor of law at Münster, whose influence can be traced in many of the poems of her youth which recall also those of Schiller. She owed still more to her friendship with Chr. B. Schlüter, professor of philosophy at Münster, for many years her mentor, and who, together with their common friend, W. Junkmann, subsequently professor of history at Breslau, first brought the poetess before the public by selections from her poetry, unfortunately not too happily chosen (Münster, 1838). We must not, however, overestimate the influence of her Münster friends on her poetic achievements, any more than that of Levin Schücking, with whom later she entered into friendly relations. Like all great minds, she followed her own course, and consequently the poems which she composed in the fruitful years she passed at Meersburg were the works of a finished poetess, who received from Schücking the right incentive at the right time.

Annette turned her muse to almost all kinds of poetry. In her dramatic attempts, however, she got no further than the fragment "Berta" and the one-act play "Perdu". Her brilliant descriptive powers in prose are amply manifested in her numerous letters and stories, among which are: "Bei uns zu Lande auf dem Lande", "Bilder aus Westfalen" and, particularly, "Die Judenbuche". With equal skill she handled narrative verse. Poetic imagery and warmth of colouring and vigour such as we see in the "Schlacht im Loener Bruch", are not frequently met with in German literature. Her "Geistliches Jahr" is a unique work in which she gives expression to her religious thoughts and impressions. It is intelligible only to those who in judging it take into account not merely the individuality of the author but also the entire tendency of the period when it was written.

The fame of the poetess rests chiefly on her lyric poems, her pastorales, and her ballads. In the poetic representation of nature, few can equal her. The poetical works of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff are imperishable. What makes them so is their originality, the proof that they are the works of a genius. It is this too that gained for their author the well-earned title of "Germany's greatest poetess". Collective editions of her works have been edited by Levin Schücking (1879); Kreiten (4 vols., 1884-87; 2nd ed., 1900); and Arens (1905); supplements and corrections to these by Eschmann (1909). Her letters were edited by Schlüter (2nd ed., 1880) and Th. Schücking (1893), and an important collection edited by Dr. Cardauns is embodied in the collection of Dr. Foster entitled "Forschungen und Funde" (1909). Dr. Foster is also engaged (1909) on an edition of the "Geistliches Jahr", the concluding part of which was left in an unfinished state.

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