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Merck, Johann Heikrich

MERCK, JOHANN HEIKRICH (1741-1791), German author and critic, was born at Darmstadt on the nth of April 1741, a few days after the death of his father, a chemist. He studied law at Giessen, and in 1767 was given an appointment in the paymaster's department at Darmstadt, and a year later himself became paymaster. For a number of years he exercised considerable influence upon the literary movement in Germany; he helped to found the Frankfurter gelehrte Anzeigen in 1772, and was one of the chief contributors to Nicolai's Allgemeine Bibliothek. In 1782 he accompanied the Landgravine Karoline of Hesse-Darmstadt to St Petersburg, and on his return was a guest of the duke Charles Augustus of Weimar in the Wartburg. Unfortunate speculations brought him in to pecuniary embarrassment in 1788, and although friends, notably Goethe, were ready to come to his assistance, his losses combined with the death of five of his children so preyed upon his mind that he committed suicide on the 27th of June 1791. Merck distinguished himself mainly as a critic; his keen perception, critical perspicacity and refined taste made him a valuable guide to the young writers of the Sturm und Drang. He also wrote a number of small treatises, dealing mostly with literature and art, especially painting, and a few poems, stories, narratives and the like ; but they have not much intrinsic importance. Merck's letters are particularly interesting and instructive, and throw much light upon the literary conditions of his time.

Merck's Ausgewahlte Schriften zur schonen Literatur und Kunst were published by A. Stahr in 1840, with a biography. See Brief e an J. H. Merck von Goethe, Herder, Wieland und andern bedeutenden Zeitgenossen (1835), Brief e an und von J. H. Merck (1838) and Brief e aus dem Freundeskreise von Goethe, Herder, Hopfner und Merck (1847), all edited by K. Wagner. Cf. G. Zimmermann, J. H. Merck, seine Umgebung und seine Zeit (1871).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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