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Aquarium > Sekundäres > The Life of Novalis > 1. Childhood

1. Childhood

The family von Hardenberg can be traced back into the twelfth century, belonging to the old nobility of Lower Saxony. After a division of the property in the seventeenth century, Novalis's great-grandfather received, among others, the estate Oberwiederstedt, a secularized monastery to which a manor had been added. The main entrance of this building was closed by a wall of bricks; one of the previous occupants had ordered the entrance blocked after his long-awaited bride was struck dead by a bolt of lightning on the very doorstep.

Our poet was born here on the 2nd of May in 1772 and baptized Georg Philipp Friedrich. His father was Heinrich Ulrich Erasmus von Hardenberg, who had been active in mining, then in military service and had finally retired to the supervision of the estate. His first wife died young. Hardenberg considered it a punishment from God and completely turned away from his worldly lifestyle, aligning himself with the "Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde," a pietistic protestant brotherhood. His second wife, Auguste Bernhardine von Bölzig, gave birth to eleven children, of which Novalis was the second oldest and his oldest son. Only one of them, a son, would outlive her.

As a child, Friedrich was quiet, weak, and apprehensive behind his brothers and sisters. In his ninth year he got seriously ill with dysentery, but after recovery he showed great talents and eagerness in learning.

Around the age of eleven he lived for one year at the house of his uncle Friedrich Wilhelm von Hardenberg in Lucklum near Braunschweig, who was a member of the Deutschritterorden (Order of the German Knights) and principal of their belongings there. The uncle led a sociable life in the style of the ancien règime and owned a library with the literature of the time.

In the beginning of 1785 the family left the estate and moved to Weissenfels, as the father was appointed director of the salt-works in Artern, Kösen and Dürrenberg. The family's general lifestyle did not change much. The children would have mostly spent their time with their mother, with each other, or with their tutor.

In May of 1789 Novalis sent letters of admiration to the poet Gottfried August Bürger. Novalis also sent some of his own poems to Bürger, and eventually met the poet while Bürger was on a visit to his sister in a nearby village.

0. Preface
2. Studies


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