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Justinus Kerner in old age

Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner (September 18, 1786 ÔÇô February 21, 1862), was a Germanmarker poet and medical writer.


He was born at Ludwigsburgmarker in W├╝rttembergmarker. After attending the classical schools of Ludwigsburgmarker and Maulbronnmarker, he was apprenticed in a cloth factory, but, in 1804, owing to the good services of Professor Karl Philipp Conz, was able to enter the University of T├╝bingenmarker. He studied medicine but also had time for literary pursuits in the company of Ludwig Uhland, Gustav Schwab and others. He took his doctor's degree in 1808, spent some time travelling, and then settled as a practising physician in Wildbadmarker.

Here he completed his Reiseschatten von dem Schattenspieler Luchs (1811), in which his own experiences are described with caustic humour. He next collaborated with Uhland and Schwab in the Poetischer Almanach for 1812, which was followed by the Deutscher Dichterwald (1813), and in these some of Kerner's best poems were published. In 1815 he obtained the official appointment of district medical officer (Oberamtsarzt) in Gaildorf, and in 1818 was transferred to Weinsbergmarker, where he spent the rest of his life.

His house, the site of which at the foot of the historical Schloss Weibertreu was presented to him by the townspeople, became a mecca for literary pilgrims, all of whom were made welcome. Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden came with a knapsack on his back. The poets, Christian Friedrich Alexander von W├╝rttemberg and Nikolaus Lenau were constant guests, and in 1826 Friederike Hauffe, the daughter of a forester in Prevorst, a somnambulist and clairvoyante, arrived; she forms the subject of Kerner's famous work Die Seherin von Prevorst, Er├Âffnungen ├╝ber das innere Leben des Menschen und ├╝ber das Hineinragen einer Geisterwelt in die unsere (1829; 6th ed., 1892). In 1826 he published a collection of Gedichte which were later supplemented by Der letzte Bl├╝tenstrau├č (1852) and Winterbl├╝ten (1859). Among others of his well-known poems are the charming ballad Der reichste F├╝rst; a drinking song, Wohlauf, noch getrunken, and the pensive Wanderer in der S├Ągem├╝hle.

Autograph with so-called 'Klecksographie'

In addition to his literary productions, Kerner wrote some popular medical books, dealing with animal magnetism, a treatise on the influence of sebacic acid on animal organisms, Das Fettgift oder die Fetts├Ąure und ihre Wirkung auf den tierischen Organismus (1822); a description of Wildbad and its healing waters, Das Wildbad im K├Ânigreich W├╝rttemberg (1813); while he gave a pretty and vivid account of his youthful years in Bilderbuch aus meiner Knabenzeit (1859); and in Die Best├╝rmung der w├╝rttembergischen Stadt Weinsberg im Jahre 1525 (1820), showed considerable skill in historical narrative.

In 1851 he was compelled, owing to increasing blindness, to retire from his medical practice, but he lived, carefully tended by his daughters, at Weinsberg until his death. He was buried beside his wife, who had died in 1854, in the graveyard of Weinsberg, and the grave is marked by a stone slab with an inscription he himself had chosen: Friederike Kerner und ihr Justinus.

Association with George Rapp and the Harmony Society

In Bilderbuch aus meiner Knabenzeit, Kerner recalls George Rapp's visits to his father, the Oberamtmann at Maulbronnmarker. Kerner's father had helped shield Rapp from religious prosecution by the authorities in Germany, and Kerner well remembered Rapp and his long black beard.[47524] George Rapp and his followers eventually left Germany in 1803, settled in the United States, and started the Harmony Society. In 1829, Kerner published Die Seherin von Prevorst [The Seeress of Prevorst], about Kerner's relationship with a young woman named Friederike Hauffe (1801-1829) who was reputed to have visionary and healing powers, and who had produced a strange 'inner' language, containing Hebrew-like elements. This book made quite an impression among the members of the Harmony Society in 1829, who saw it as confirmation of the approaching millennium and of their religious views.[47525]


Kerner was one of the most inspired poets of the Swabian school. His poems, which largely deal with natural phenomena, are characterized by a deep melancholy and a leaning towards the supernatural, which, however, is balanced by a quaint humour, reminiscent of the Volkslied.

Cultural references

The poet Thomas Medwin stayed with him during 1848 to 1849 and later wrote a poem in his honourTo Justinus Kerner: With a Painted Wreath of Bay-Leaves punlished in London in 1854

The grape variety Kerner, bred in 1929, was named in his honour.


Journals with information about Justinus Kerner

  • Mitteilungen des Justinus-Kerner-Vereins und Frauen-Vereins Weinsberg. Weinsberg : Justinus-Kerner-Verein
  • Suevica: Beitr├Ąge zur schw├Ąbischen Literatur- und Geistesgeschichte / ed. Reinhard Breymayer. Stuttgart: Heinz (Stuttgarter Arbeiten zur Germanistik). ÔÇô ISSN 0179-2482

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