German poet; brother of Giacomo Meyerbeer, the composer, and of Wilhelm Beer, the astronomer; born Aug. 19, 1800, in Berlin; died at Munich March 22, 1833.
At the Werder Gymnasium, Berlin, where Beer was completing the education he had received at home, he early showed a marked preference for the tragedians among the classical writers of ancient Greece and Rome. At the age of eighteen he wrote his first tragedy, "Klytemnestra," which was produced at the Hoftheater, Berlin, Dec. 8, 1819, and made a favorable impression. After this youthful attempt—which revealed the weak points of his insufficient training, while the success of the play encouraged him in the pursuit of a literary career—he plunged with renewed fervor into his interrupted studies, following courses in history, philology, the natural sciences, and philosophy at the universities of Berlin and Bonn.
Beer's extensive travels through European countries contributed much to the liberal character and thoroughness of his education. From his second journey to Italy he brought home a new tragedy, "Die Bräute von Aragonien," suggested by Goethe's ballad, "Die Braut von Korinth." It was published, simultaneously with "Klytemnestra," in Leipsic in 1823.
The most successful of Beer's works was the one-act tragedy "Der Paria." With remarkable stagecraft, which is lacking in his later productions, he concentrated into a single act a story rich in content and full of stirring incident. It was produced for the first time Dec. 22, 1823, in Berlin, and received an ovation, Goethe himself adding warm praise to the plaudits of the audience. The author pictures in vivid colors the momentous struggle which a noble nature undergoes in a conflict with the depressing influence of degrading circumstances. It is an eloquent and bitter outcry against the oppression of the Jews in Europe.
In 1824 Beer moved to Paris, where the large circle of acquaintances and the growing fame of his brother, Giacomo Meyerbeer, threw open the doors of every salon to the young German poet. He soon learned to know intimately a number of eminent litterateurs, artists, and statesmen in Paris, and before the end of the year he felt as much at home in the French metropolis as at his father's home in Berlin. He rarely returned to his native city in after-days,spending the rest of his life in Paris, on the Rhine, or in Munich, where he succumbed to neurasthenia at the age of thirty-two.
The largest and best, if not the most successful, of Beer's works was his "Struensee," a tragedy in five acts, dedicated to King Ludwig of Bavaria, and produced for the first time March 27, 1828, in Munich. It was very favorably received; and Count de St. Aulaire, with whom Beer became intimately acquainted while in Paris, made it known to the reading public in France by his translations of several scenes from the tragedy, which appeared in the "Revue Française." The whole work, published originally in Stuttgart, 1829, was later translated into French by Ferguson (Paris, 1834, simultaneously with a translation of "Der Paria," by Xavier de Marmier). A fine edition of this tragedy, with an introduction by Joseph Kürschner, is to be found in Kürschner's "Deutsche Nationalliteratur," cxxxvi., 1889.
Beer was also the author of some excellent poems, among which may be mentioned his "Elegies," written in Italy (1826). A complete edition of Beer's works was prepared two years after his death by his friend and admirer Eduard von Schenk, the noted Bavarian poet and statesman (Leipsic, 1835).
- Brockhaus, Konversations-Lexikon, 14th ed., s.v.;
- Meyer, Konversations-Lexikon, 5th ed.;
- La Grande Encyclopédie;
- Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie;
- Michael Beer's Gesammelte Werke, ed. E. von Schenk, Leipsic, 1835.