The German writer Achim von Arnim (1781-1831) is known chiefly for his novels and his edition of German folk songs. He was an influential member of the German romantic movement.
On Jan. 26, 1781, Achim von Arnim was born in Berlin of an aristocratic Prussian family. He studied science and law at the universities of Halle and Göttingen but soon turned his attention to literature. After becoming acquainted with the poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Clemens Brentano, Arnim traveled extensively through western Europe and England. He then settled in Heidelberg, where he, Brentano, and the poet Johann Josef von Görres formed the Heidelberg group of the German romantic school and founded a literary journal, Zeitung für Einsiedler (Newspaper for Hermits). Between 1805 and 1808 Arnim and Brentano compiled Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Magic Horn), the best-known collection of German folk songs. It consisted chiefly of actual folk poetry, although many of the verses were revised or even composed by the editors. The naive "folk" tone, however, was maintained throughout.
Arnim's personal lyric output was augmented in 1806 by his volume of war songs for use by the Prussian army. In 1808 he moved to Berlin, where he rejoined Brentano and began a series of stories and dramas on historical subjects. In 1809 Arnim published his novel Gräfin Dolores "for the instruction and amusement of impoverished young ladies."
In 1811 Arnim married Bettina Brentano, a writer of the romantic school and the sister of Clemens Brentano. At an early age she had become a close friend of Goethe, and her lively exchange of letters with him was published in 1835 as Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde (Goethe's Correspondence with a Child).
In 1813 Arnim became a captain in the Prussian army and fought in the war against Napoleon. He was also an editor of the patriotic newspaper Der Rheinische Merkur. His unfinished novel, Die Kronenwächter (1817; The Crown Guardians), concerns the mystical influence of undiscovered royal blood and a secret society on the life of a young adventurer. Arnim later became a gentleman farmer in Wiepersdorf, Brandenburg, where he died on Jan. 21, 1831.
Bettina von Arnim continued her literary work after her husband's death. She wrote polemical treatises for such liberal causes as the rights of workers and women. Her most famous political work was her declaration of principles, Dies Buch gehört dem König (1843; This Book Belongs to the King). She died on Jan. 20, 1859.
The most significant book in English on Arnim is Herbert R. Liedke, Literary Criticism and Romantic Theory in the Work of Achim von Arnim (1937), which emphasizes his theoretical position. An excellent general introduction to his life and writings may be found in Ralph Tymms, German Romantic Literature (1955). August Closs, The Genius of the German Lyric (1938; rev. ed. 1962), contains a brief discussion of his lyric poetry. L. A. Willoughby, The Romantic Movement in Germany (1930), offers a concise appraisal of the role of Bettina von Arnim in German literature.
Hoermann, Roland., Achim von Arnim, Boston: Twayne, 1984.
Hoermann, Roland., Achim von Arnim's 1854 Kronenw'chter Text: Bettina's forgery or Berthold's forerunner: start of a sequel or end of an Ur-Kronenw'chter?, Stuttgart: H.-D. Heinz, 1990.
Ziegler, Vickie L., Bending the frame in the German cyclical narrative: Achim von Arnim's Der Wintergarten & E.T.A. Hoffmann's Die Serapionsbr'der, Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1991.