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LESSMANN, DANIEL:

German historian and poet; born at Soldin, Neumark, Jan. 18, 1784; committed suicide at a place between Kropstadt and Wittenberg Sept. 2, 1831. He attended the Joachimsthal'sche Gymnasium in Berlin, and had begun the study of medicine when the war of the allied powers against Napoleon broke out in 1813. He fought in the ranks, was wounded at the battle of Lützen (May 2, 1813), and on recovering remained in the field until the end of the war. When peace was restored he resumed his medical studies. He went as private teacher to Vienna, and removed later to Italy, remaining some time in Verona.

In 1824 he settled in Berlin and devoted himself to literary work, contributing to various periodicals, sketches of life in southern countries, historical studies, short stories, and poems. A collection of his poems was published under the title "Amathusia," Berlin, 1824. In 1826 his "Zwölf Wanderlieder eines Schwermüthigen" appeared in Berlin, and four years later another volume was issued under the title "Gedichte," ib. 1830. In his poetry there is easily discernible the influence of Heine, with whom he was on friendly terms, and in whose letters to Moser there are frequent references to Lessmann.

Lessmann's contributions to imaginative prose literature include the novels "Louise von Halling," 2 vols., ib. 1827, which attracted the attention of Goethe, and "Die Heidemühle," published in two volumes seven years after his death. To Lessmann belongs much of the credit for the introduction of modern Italian literature into Germany through his translation of Manzoni's "I Promessi Sposi," and of La Monaca di Monza," by Giovanni Rossini.

His important historical work was the "Mastino della Scala: Ein Beitrag zur Gesch. der Oberitalienischen Staaten im Mittelalter," ib. 1828. In 1829 and 1830 appeared successively the two volumes of "Biographische Gemälde," which included historical studies of Philip the Beautiful, Alfonso Albuquerque,Innocent III., and Prince Michael Glinski. Much of the "Nachlass," 2 vols., ib. 1837-38, is devoted to valuable historical work. Lessmann left in manuscript a voluminous "Weltgeschichte des Alterthums," which has never been published.

His seven years of literary activity were years of profound melancholy. Lessmann had high aspirations and great ambition. He dreamed of securing some position of eminence; and it appears, from the answer of Moser to one of Heine's letters, that in 1824 Lessmann adopted Christianity in order that he might realize his hopes. Nothing came of all his efforts in this direction; and he fell into a state of despondency, which is reflected in his poetry and in his "Wanderbuch eines Schwermüthigen," 2 vols., ib. 1831-32. One day Lessmann left Berlin on the pretext of taking a pedestrian tour to Leipsic and Dresden, and was found hanged by his own act.

Bibliography:
  • Gödeke, Grundr. der Deutschen Literatur, iii. 730-732;
  • Gubitz, Errinnerungen, iii. 1-7, Berlin, 1869;
  • L. Geiger, Daniel Lessmann, in Allg. Deutsche Biog. xviii. 451-453;
  • Strodtmann, Heine, i. 319;
  • Brümmer, Dichterlexikon.
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