The magnetizer (ETA Hoffmann)

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The Magnetiseur is a story by ETA Hoffmann , which was written in the summer of 1813 in Dresden, which was occupied by Napoleon, and which was published in April 1814 in Volume 2 of “Fantasiestücke in Callot 's manner”. In his preface to the “Fantasiestücke”, Jean Paul emphasizes this text and his “powerful tale”.

The text tells of the titular magnetizer and physician Alban, who exercises power over the 16-year-old Baroness Maria by means of mesmeristic hypnosis .


In the fourth of the six chapters (see below: headings under “Plot”) the traveling enthusiast (this gentleman is something like the editor of the “Fantasy Pieces in Callot's Manner”) can look into the cards. He found the essay "Dreams are foams" and the two letters that followed in the papers of the painter Franz Bickert. The enthusiast then rummaged through the painter's diary (Chapter 5). Rohrwasser calls the traveling enthusiast a "pioneer of modern storytelling".

Siebenpfeiffer writes about the narrators: While the traveling enthusiast is assembling the text sections, the first three chapters from the pen of the painter Bickert are not meant to be chronical, but rather as attempts to explain the catastrophe in the lonely castle.


1. Dreams are foams

On September 9th, the old baron sits at his castle with his children Ottmar and the baroness Maria as well as with his old friend, the painter Franz Bickert, in the salon by the fireplace and wants to persuade his family: “Dreams are foams”. Ottmar brought his idol, the doctor Alban, into the house. He apparently healed Mary of an illness through dream-influencing and hypnosis. The baron thinks little of such a “magnetic cure”. He despises Alban's practices, “his solemn nature, his mystical speeches, his charlataneries, how he ... magnetizes the elms, the linden trees ... when, with arms outstretched to the north, he draws new strength into himself from the world spirit . “The baron tells of an experience in his youth: During his military training, his Danish major had hypnotized him in a dream. The painter Bickert is also skeptical of the doctor, but Ottmar and Maria are on Alban's side and Ottmar tells the story of a hypnosis à la Alban. Shortly before Ottmar finishes his story, Maria faints. Shortly afterwards Alban appears in the salon. He provides a "safe nerve accident" and predicts that Maria will wake up from her "benevolent" sleep at exactly six in the morning, which is exactly what happens. It is also puzzling how Alban passed the locked salon door twice.

2. Mary's letter to Adelgunde

Adelgunde is Count Hypolit's sister, Maria's bridegroom. He went to war. The letter reveals the relationship between Maria and Alban: Maria calls the doctor a “wonderful man” who “has something commanding” and calls him her “Lord and Master”. Maria wonders: “... as if he [Alban] used secret infernal means to tie me up to his slave; what if he then ordered me to leave Hypolit with only him in mind and thoughts? ”With this letter, Hypolit also learns about the events in the baron's castle.

3. Fragment of Alban's letter to Theobald

Alban does not treat Maria, but made her sick and submissive. Alban reports about this and his mastery of Ottmar in a letter to his college friend, the doctor Theobald. In the first chapter, Theobald was the “hero” in Ottmar's story, the story at the climax of which Maria lost consciousness. Theobald had practiced the same procedure on a young girl that Alban had on Maria afterwards. The reader already knows from Maria's letter how Theobald had done it “without her knowledge, when she was sleeping”: Theobald directed “her innermost thoughts on himself through magnetic means”. Alban writes condescendingly that Ottmar pushed himself up to him and then willingly snuggled under his discipline as a student. Alban has determined an even more disastrous fate for Maria. He had put the girl in the somnambulistic state that her family had seen as a nervous disease. Now be Mary. Separation from him must destroy them. Alban expresses his will. If Hypolit returns from the battle, he will not give up his sacrifice Maria.

4. The lonely castle

After the painter Bickert's funeral, the traveling enthusiast appears in the deserted castle and looks through the deceased's papers. Bickert had lived in the deserted walls for three years.

5. From Bickert's diary

In short diary entries, Bickert describes a series of tragic deaths. Hypolit, having returned home healthy from the war, steps with Mary in front of the altar, where the bride sinks dead. Hipolyt duels with Ottmar, because he brought Alban into the castle and "murdered the bride with infernal arts". Hypolit dies. Further down in the text the reader learns that Ottmar apparently got away alive because he dies “the heroic death in battle”. The old baron dies childless in the arms of the painter at midnight on November 9th. The baron had previously seen his old Danish major in Alban. The magnetizer, this major's revenant , managed to escape. But Hipolyt swore revenge.

6. Editor's note to the Nicomedes Justice Council

In addition to the painter Bickert and the traveling enthusiast, the editor appears as the third narrator in the narrow text. He thanks a judiciary (also newly introduced in the story) for the papers that were made available to the reader in chapters 1 to 5. In the penultimate sentence, the editor doubts the existence of the Council of Justice.


On July 13, 1813, ETA Hoffmann wrote to Friedrich Speyer from Bamberg that he was illuminating one of the still dark sides of magnetism with the “magnetizer”.


  • Wetzel underlines the text as "one of the most daring and successful productions in our literature" and Woltmann tears up the story.
  • Details can be found at Steinecke. His conclusion: when compared to the magnetizer, observing and acting figures appear to be quite helpless. Steinecke also mentions Gisela Köhler's dissertation (Frankfurt am Main 1972).
  • It is about the destruction of a family and about " brainwashing ".
  • In 1955, Ohl looked in vain for “unity and straightforwardness” in the novella.
  • Josefine Nettesheim countered this in 1967: The subject of “amalgamation of temporal knowledge and poetic imagination” naturally breaks the novella form.
  • In his ETA Hoffmann book, Safranski devotes an entire chapter to the story. The fight against Napoleon is emphasized.
  • The design of Albans together with the Danish major is felt by Kaiser as successful.
  • Fighters (Hipolyt, Ottmar) are mentioned variously in battle. According to Steinecke, the battle near Dresden could be meant.
  • Siebenpfeiffer highlights the magical date of September 9th, on which the introductory conversation takes place by the fireplace, on which the old baron as a young cadet was hypnotized in his sleep by his Danish major and on which the baron dies.
  • Siebenpfeiffer names topics, the authors of which are referred to under "Research literature" (Kremer, pages 622–656).
    • Mesmerism, discussed among contemporaries: Maria M. Tatar (Princeton 1978), Wolfgang Müller-Funk (Stuttgart 1985), Margarete Kohlenbach (Munich 1991), Juliane Forssmann (Stuttgart 1999) and Jürgen Barkhoff (Stuttgart 1995) and (Würzburg 2004).
    • Fight against rulers like Napoleon: Günter Dammann (Kronberg / Taunus 1975), Rüdiger Safranski (Stuttgart 1984), Michael Rohrwasser (Basel 1991), Odila Triebel (Cologne 2003), Christian Jürgens (Heidelberg 2003)
    • Problem of identity: Gerhard Neumann (Würzburg 1997c)
    • Fantastic: Josefine Nettesheim (Vienna 1967), Kenneth B. Woodgate (Frankfurt am Main 1999)
    • Rhetoric: Nicole Fernandez Bravo (Tübingen 1995)

See also


First edition

  • The magnetizer. A family incident . P. 221–360 in: ETA Hoffmann: Fantasy pieces in Callot's manner. Sheets from the diary of a traveling enthusiast. With a preface by Jean Paul. Second volume. 360 pages. CF Kunz's new reading institute, Bamberg 1814

Used edition

  • ETA Hoffmann: The magnetizer. A family incident. S. 178–225 in: Hartmut Steinecke (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann: Fantasiestücke in Callot's manner. Works 1814. German classic publishing house in paperback. Vol. 14. Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 978-3-618-68014-7 (corresponds to: Vol. 2/1 in: Hartmut Steinecke (Ed.): "ETA Hoffmann: Complete Works in Seven Volumes", Frankfurt am Main 1993)

Secondary literature

  • Rüdiger Safranski : ETA Hoffmann. The life of a skeptical fantasist. 2nd Edition. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001 (1st edition 1984), ISBN 3-596-14301-2 .
  • Gerhard R. Kaiser: ETA Hoffmann. Metzler, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-476-10243-2 . (Metzler Collection; 243; realities on literature)
  • Gerhard Schulz : The German literature between the French Revolution and the restoration. Part 2. The Age of the Napoleonic Wars and the Restoration: 1806–1830. CH Beck, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-406-09399-X .
  • Hania Siebenpfeiffer: The magnetizer. P. 108–113 in: Detlef Kremer (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann. Life - work - effect. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-018382-5

Individual evidence

  1. Steinecke in the edition used, p. 734, 18. Zvo
  2. Steinecke in the edition used, p. 553 and Siebenpfeiffer, p. 108
  3. Jean Paul in the edition used, p. 12, footnote
  4. Siebenpfeiffer, p. 112, 4th Zvu
  5. Siebenpfeiffer, p. 113, 6th Zvu
  6. ^ Rohrwasser 1991, quoted in Siebenpfeiffer, p. 112, 1. Zvo
  7. Siebenpfeiffer, p. 111 below
  8. Edition used, p. 204, 23. Zvo
  9. Edition used, p. 210, 22. Zvo
  10. Siebenpfeiffer, p. 112, 19. Zvo
  11. Kaiser, p. 37, 23. Zvo and Steinecke, p. 724
  12. ^ Wetzel, quoted in Steinecke, p. 730, 9th Zvu
  13. Woltmann, quoted in Steinecke, p. 730, 7th Zvu
  14. Steinecke, pp. 724-745 and pp. 923-924
  15. Steinecke, p. 735, 5. Zvo
  16. Steinecke, p. 923, 2nd entry vu (see also about Gisela Köhler ; PDF file; 98 kB)
  17. Schulz, p. 430, 23. Zvo
  18. quoted in Kaiser, p. 37, 11. Zvo and p. 41, 3. Zvu: Hubert Ohl: Diss. Frankfurt am Main 1955
  19. see also in Steinecke, p. 731, 15. Zvu
  20. quoted in Kaiser, p. 37, 20. Zvo and p. 43, 15. Zvu: Josefine Nettesheim (1967)
  21. Safranski, pp. 294-310: 17th chapter: Napoleon and the magnetizer
  22. Kaiser, p. 37.15. Zvu
  23. Steinecke, p. 734
  24. Edition used, p. 180, 22. Zvo
  25. Edition used, p. 184, 11. Zvo
  26. Edition used, p. 224, 16. Zvo
  27. Steinecke in the edition used, p. 553 and Figs. 1 and 2 after p. 536

Web links

Wikisource: The Magnetizer  - Sources and full texts