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MELS, ALFRED (psendonym of Martin Cohn):

German author; born at Berlin April 15, 1831; died at Summerdale, near Chicago, July 22, 1894. He studied at the University of Berlin, but in 1848 ran away to join the Foreign Legion of Algiers. He was severely wounded while on the way to Oran in charge of a detachment of recruits. Tiring of this life, he went to Paris, where he found literary employment with Alexandre Dumas.

In 1850 Mels as a private joined the rebel army of Sleswick-Holstein against Denmark, and at Idstadt was again wounded. Recovering, he returned to Paris as correspondent for various journals. Later he went to Madrid to become the editor of "Las Novedades." This position he resigned in order to join the Spanish army, in which he rose to the rank of captain. In 1864 Mels returned to Germany to become a contributor to the "Gartenlaube" and, later, to the "Daheim." In 1866 he published anonymously "Der Feldzug der Main-Armee," an account of the progress of the Prussian army operating in the vicinity of the Main in 1866. In 1869 he went to the Paris Exposition as representative of "Daheim" and "Ueber Land und Meer."

On the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war Mels was appointed by the London "Times" one of its correspondents with the German army; but after the fall of Sedan he resigned in order to accompany Napoleon III. to Wilhelmshöhe. Thence he went to Vienna, where he became the feuilletonist of the "Wiener Tageblatt." In 1873 he published, under the nom de plume "Don Spavento," an exposé and a satirical criticism of Viennese journalists and their methods: "Typen und Silhouetten von Wiener Schriftsteller und Journalisten." From Vienna he went successively to Graz, Zurich, Paris, Italy, and Chicago.

Mels's best-known work is the comedy "Heine's Junge Leiden" (1872), which has been performed more than 2,000 times. An equal measure of success was achieved by "Der Neue Frühling" (1877), after two other plays, "Der Staatsanwalt" (1875) and "Das Letzte Manuscript" (1876), had been only moderately successful. Among Mels's other works are: "Erlebtes und Erdachtes" (1869); "Herzenskämpfe" (1869); "Gebilde und Gestalten" (1870); "Seltsame Schicksale" (1872); "Unsichtbare Mächte" (1875); and "Ferne Horizonte" (1876-78). Mels embraced Christianity in 1859.

Bibliography:
  • Unsere Zeit, i. 672-675;
  • Bornmüller, Schriftsteller-Lexikon, 1882, p. 484;
  • Franz Brümmer, Deutsches Dichter-Lexikon, 1876.
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