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Spiess, Christian Heinrich

SPIESS, CHRISTIAN HEINRICH (1755-1799), German writer of romances, was born at Freiberg in Saxony on the 4th of April 1755. For a time an actor, he was appointed in 1788 controller on the estate of a certain Count Kiinigl at Betzdikau in Bohemia, where he died, almost insane, the result of his weird fancies, on the 17th of August 1799.

Spiess, in his Rilter-, Rauber- und Geister- Romane, as they are called stories of knights, robbers and ghosts of the " dark " ages the idea of which he borrowed from Goethe's Gotz von Berlichingen and Schiller's Rauber and Geisterseher, was the founder of the German Schauerroman (shocker), a style of writing continued, though in a finer vein, by Karl Gottlob Cramer (1758-1817) and by Goethe's brother-in-law, Christian August Vulpius. These stories, though appealing largely to the vulgar taste, made Spiess one of the most widely read authors of his day. The most popular was a ghost story of the 13th century, Das Petermiinnchen (1793); among others were Der alte Uberall und Nirgends (1792); Die Lowenritler (1794), and Hans Heiling, vierter und letzter Regent der Erd- Luft- Feuer- und WasserGeister (1798). Beside numerous comedies, Spiess wrote, anticipating Schiller, a tragedy Maria Stuart (1784), which was in the same year performed at the court theatre in Vienna.

See Karl Goedeke, Grundriss, v. 506 sqq. ; Mtiller-Fraureuth, Die Ritter- und Rauberromane (Halle, 1894).

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

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