Friedrich von Schlegel

Schlegel, Friedrich von (frēˈdrĭkh fən shlāˈgəl) [key], 1772–1829, German philosopher, critic, and writer, most prominent of the founders of German romanticism. Educated in law at Göttingen and Leipzig, he turned to literature, writing Die Griechen und Römer (1797). It was followed by experimental literary works, notably Lucinde (1799) and Alarcos (1802). With his brother, August Wilhelm von Schlegel, he founded and edited the Athenaeum, the principal organ of the romantic school. His lectures at Jena (1800) and in Paris (1802) had a widespread influence. His study in Paris of Sanskrit and of Indian civilization later contributed to his outstanding work, Über die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier [on the language and wisdom of India] (1808). From 1808 to 1819 he engaged in political and diplomatic activities and also wrote works in history and literature. At Vienna, after 1818, he edited Concordia, issued his collected works (1822–25), and lectured on philosophy. Schlegel, during his early period, held that comprehension of life depends on the richness and variety of experience. He called it "romantic irony" that truth changes from experience to experience and that wisdom depends on the recognition of the fickleness of truth. Later, after he and his wife, Dorothea von Schlegel, had joined (1808) the Roman Catholic Church, he became more conservative. Among his translated lectures are The Philosophy of History (tr. 1835), The Philosophy of Life and the Philosophy of Language (tr. 1847), and The History of Literature (tr. 1859).

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