1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Musäus, Johann Karl August

MUSÄUS, JOHANN KARL AUGUST (1735–1787), German author, was born on the 29th of March 1735 at Jena, studied theology at the university, and would have become the pastor of a parish but for the resistance of some peasants, who objected that he had been known to dance. In 1760 to 1762 he published in three volumes his first work, Grandison der Zweite, afterwards (in 1781–1782) rewritten and issued with a new title, Der deutsche Grandison. The object of this book was to satirize Samuel Richardson’s hero, who had many sentimental admirers in Germany. In 1763 Musäus was made master of the court pages at Weimar, and in 1769 he became professor at the Weimar gymnasium. His second book—Physiognomische Reisen—did not appear until 1778–1779. It was directed against Lavater, and attracted much favourable attention. In 1782 to 1786 he published his best work Volksmärchen der Deutschen. Even in this series of tales, the substance of which Musäus collected among the people, he could not refrain from satire. The stories, therefore, lack the simplicity of genuine folk-lore. In 1785 was issued Freund Heins Erscheinungen in Holbeins Manier by J. R. Schellenberg, with explanations in prose and verse by Musäus. A collection of stories entitled Straussfedern, of which a volume appeared in 1787, Musäus was prevented from completing by his death on the 28th of October 1787.

The Volksmärchen have been frequently reprinted (Düsseldorf, 1903, &c.). They were translated into French in 1844, and three of the stories are included in Carlyle’s German Romance (1827); Musäus’s Nachgelassene Scriften were edited by his relative, A. von Kotzebue (1791). See M. Müller, J. K. A. Musäus (1867), and an essay by A. Stern in Beiträge zur Literaturgeschichte des 18. Jahrhunderts (1893).