Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, commonly abbreviated to E. T. A. Hoffmann, was born Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann on 24 January 1776 in Königsberg, Prussia [now Kaliningrad, Russia]. He was a German Romantic writer, composer, and painter known for his fantasy and gothic horror stories.


Educated in law, he became a Prussian law officer in the Polish provinces, serving until the defeat of Prussia by Napoleon in 1806. Hoffmann turned to his music, and composed the ballet Arlequin and the opera Undine, and he changed his name—swapping out Wilhelm for Amadeus in homage to the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Although Hoffmann wrote two novels and more than 50 short stories, he supported himself as a legal official in Berlin. The struggle within Hoffmann between the ideal world of his art and his daily life as a bureaucrat is evident in many of his stories, in which characters are possessed by their art.


His use of fantasy served as inspiration for several composers: Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Jacques Offenbach, The Tales of Hoffmann (operas); Léo Delibes, Coppélia and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker (ballets). His taste for the macabre combined with realism influenced writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, George MacDonald, and Franz Kafka.


Hoffmann died of syphilis in Berlin on 25 June 1822.

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