German poet and philologist; born at Wevelingen, Prussia, Oct. 24, 1807; died at Brussels Jan. 16, 1882; educated at Krefeld, Cologne, Bonn, and Munich (Ph.D. 1830). In his "Anfänge der Kunst Unter den Griechen in Verbindung mit der Erklärung einer Phönicischen Inschrift," read before a learned society (1831), he advanced the theory that Phenician was a linguistic derivative of Hebrew, and that Phenicia had exercised a profound influence on the art of early Greece. Despite the efforts of his patron, the Archbishop of Cologne, and of others, Wihl's hopes for a university career were doomed to failure, because he declined to be baptized.
Wihl then entered upon a journalistic career at Frankfort-on-the-Main and Hamburg, and published his first volume of poems at Mayence in 1837. During a trip to England two years later he wrote his "Englischer Novellenkranz"; but his account of Heine, written at Paris for the Hamburg "Telegraph," brought upon him the enmity of the poet. In 1840 he returned to Frankfort, where, with the help of funds advanced by a Catholic banker named Seufferheld, he established a boarding-school for boys; this school, however, existed for only eighteen months, because the authorities forbade him to admit Catholic pupils. During the next few years Wihl lived at Amsterdam and at Utrecht as a teacher and journalist, until he was called to Paderborn as an editor. A recklessly radical article which he published in a local paper during the Revolution of 1848, however, brought on him a sentence of a year's imprisonment in a fortress, and he fled to France, where he became professor of German at Paris and Grenoble. On the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war he retired, from patriotic motives, to Brussels, where he resided for the remainder of his life on a pension.
Wihl was the author of the following works: "Geschichte der Deutschen National-Literatur von Ihren Ersten Anfängen bis auf Unsere Tage," 1840; "West-Oestliche Schwalben" (Mannheim, 1847; French translation, "Hirondelles Orientales," by Mercier, Paris, 1860), a collection of lyric poems; "Le Mendiant pour la Pologne" (Paris, 1864), a collection of French and German poems; and "Le Pays Bleu" (ib. 1865). He published also a number of "Portraits Poétiques," in which he gave free rein to his caustic sarcasm.
- Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Literatur, iii. 884;
- Fränkel, in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, xxii. 469-472;
- Ost und West, i. 270-274.