Hoffmann Von Fallersleben, August Heinrich (1798–1874)

By: Anders S. Saustrup

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: October 30, 2019

Hoffmann von Fallersleben, German poet, scholar, librettist, and author of Texas lyrics, was born at Fallersleben, Hannover, on April 2, 1798. Though now largely remembered as the author of the anthem "Das Deutschlandlied" (known to Americans by the first line, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles") and a number of children's songs, he was a highly productive writer and scholarly editor. While he was a student at the University of Göttingen (1816–19) he made the acquaintance of the Grimm brothers, whose influence, especially that of Jacob Grimm, shows in his own works and in his lifelong preoccupation with folk literature. After further studies in Bonn (1819–21), some travel, and a stay in Berlin (1821–23), Hoffmann obtained a position in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland), where he stayed for twenty years (1823–43). He was at first a librarian, then was appointed to a professorship in German language and literature. He quickly had a long list of professional publications to his credit, along with successful collections of his own poetry.

Hoffmann was also an outspoken political liberal who supported the growing unrest in the various German lands. Once he published his supposedly "nonpolitical songs," Unpolitische Lieder (1840–41), which are in effect politically highly charged, the swift consequence was suspension, dismissal, and banishment from Prussian lands. But fame was now his.

Though he was not formally in exile, the next half dozen years of his life were rather unsettled, and it was at this time that Hoffmann's association with Texas began. In the fall of 1843 the poet befriended Gustav Dresel, who had recently returned from Texas. Not only Dresel's tales, but his Texas journal, intrigued Hoffmann. At Hoffmann's urging, the two men started readying the journal for print. Hoffmann was to edit the work and supply an introduction. Dresel's Texas journal was never published in Germany, for reasons not entirely clear, though two publishers are known to have turned it down. While work on the journal was in progress, Hoffmann also befriended Adolf Fuchs just a few weeks before the Fuchs family sailed for Texas in late 1845. For their departure Hoffmann wrote his first poem about the Lone Star emblem, "Der Stern von Texas." During the following months Hoffmann came under a third influence, in the form of Hermann Ehrenberg's book on the Texas Revolution, which impelled him to complete his collection of thirty-one Texas songs, Texanische Lieder (1846). In order to circumvent censorship regulations, Hoffmann had the title page state that the book was written by German Texans and published in San Felipe, Texas, by "Adolf Fuchs & Co.," whereas it actually came out in Wandsbeck, Germany.

At about this time the Adelsverein, concerned about its rapidly tarnishing image, also approached Hoffmann, in part through Dresel, hoping apparently to enlist the poet as a prospective emigrant, and to that end made it known that its next settlement after Fredericksburg was going to be named Fallersleben. In November 1846 the society deeded him 300 acres of Texas land as a gift. But the town of Fallersleben was never founded, and the owner never took possession of his Texas acreage.

In 1852 Hoffmann again used Texas in his writing, this time as one of the settings in a three-act opera, In beiden Welten ("In Both Worlds," printed in 1868). He approached Robert Schumann, among other musicians, as a possible composer, but to no avail. Not until 1860, when he was employed as a nobleman's librarian, did Hoffmann truly settle down. Among his many late works the largest is his memoirs, Mein Leben (1868), volumes four and five of which are about his Texas connections. Hoffmann von Fallersleben died on January 19, 1874, at Corvey Castle, near Höxter, Westphalia.

Fritz Andrée, Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1972). Max Freund, ed. and trans., Gustav Dresel's Houston Journal (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1954). August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Gesammelte Werke (8 vols., Berlin: Fontane, 1890–94). August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben Collection, 1846, 1868, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Poets
  • Music
  • Genres (Ethnic)
  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Authors and Writers
  • Memoirs, Diaries, Letters, and Travel
  • Publications, Journals, and Magazines

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anders S. Saustrup, “Hoffmann Von Fallersleben, August Heinrich,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hoffmann-von-fallersleben-august-heinrich.

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February 1, 1995
October 30, 2019

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