Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim

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Portrait of Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim von Tischbein, 1771.

Gleim's signature:Signature Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim (cropped) .jpg

Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim (born April 2, 1719 in Ermsleben , † February 18, 1803 in Halberstadt ) was a poet, literary patron and collector of the German Enlightenment and exponent of the friendship culture of the Enlightenment. As an anacreonist called the “German Anakreon ”, he was called a patriotic poet according to the author's fiction of his war poetry “Prussian Grenadier ”. As a literary patron and patriarch of German literature at the end of the 18th century, he was also known under the name "Father Gleim".


Memorial plaque on the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt

Gleim was the eighth of twelve children of a tax collector from Altmark and his wife, a pastor's daughter from the Cleve area. He grew up in Ermsleben, received a school education in Wernigerode and lost both parents at an early age. After studying law in Halle (1738–1741) and a longer stay with relatives, he went to Potsdam in 1743 and later to Berlin, where he became a private tutor. In 1743/44 he became secretary to Margrave Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg-Schwedt and accompanied him to the 2nd Silesian War . After the death of his employer, Gleim was briefly secretary to Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Dessau , but he soon left his service, disgusted by its rudeness, and hoped for an improvement in his situation.

Gleim's tomb at the Holtemme in Halberstadt

In 1747 Gleim became cathedral secretary of the cathedral monastery in Halberstadt. In 1756 he acquired a canon of the Walbeck Abbey near Halberstadt to provide further financial security . He worked at the cathedral for fifty years and died unmarried in Halberstadt, completely blind, as a wealthy citizen, well-known poet, influential collector, sponsor and mediator. According to his wishes, he was buried in his garden at the Holtemme .


During his student days Gleim made poetic friendships with Johann Peter Uz , Johann Nikolaus Götz and Paul Jacob Rudnik, with whom he formed the so-called " Second Hallesche Dichterschule ". Following essential suggestions from the Halle aestheticians Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten and Georg Friedrich Meier, and with recourse to the ancient anacreon, an attempt was made to bring a light tone to German poetry. Gleim's “Experiment in Joking Songs” (1744/1745) - rhyming poetry about the serene enjoyment of life - occupies a prominent position here. The volume of poetry stands at the beginning of the literary fashion of anacreontics , which Gleim in particular embodied as the 'German anacreon'.

Portrait engraving by Gleim by Friedrich Johann Kauke after Gottfried Hempel, 1759

Gleim achieved a further high point of popularity during the Seven Years' War as the author of Prussian war songs, which were based on the fiction that a grenadier reported on the war. These poems by Gleim were set to music by the Berlin lawyer and music lover Christian Gottfried Krause , but later also by Telemann and Schubart . Using the Engl. Gleim found the Chevy Chase verse to be a catchy tone, which Lessing particularly emphasized and which motivated him to collect the initially single printed poems in 1758 and to add the praising preamble that Gleim had hit a new "bard tone".

Gleim also found recognition as a fabulous poet. With his published letters, he helped develop a new "natural" letter style. With his thorough knowledge of the history of form, Gleim also dealt with the most varied of literary genres and often worked as a forerunner and pioneer. Worth mentioning are his romances, the imitations and transcriptions of minstrels and the didactic poetry, which he mostly had privately printed. Occasionally within his work as well as within the literature of the Enlightenment there is his great orientalizing poem "Halladat or Das Rothe Buch", which was inspired by reading the Koran . The work, published in 1774, was first noticed and valued by intellectuals in particular. It was translated into Danish and Swedish and saw several editions.


The Gleim memorial, painting by Johann Heinrich Ramberg

With his anacreontic as well as his patriotic poems Gleim achieved overwhelming literary successes. He was one of the most well-known authors of his time, who even in his later years was indispensable in the almanac and anthology literature and whose poems inspired composers to set settings up to the 19th century (including Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach , Johann Friedrich Reichardt , Georg Philipp Telemann , Johann Heinrich Rolle , Johann Nikolaus Forkel , Johann Adam Hiller , Joseph Haydn , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart ).

Gleim's anacreontic poems, like anacreontics in general, later succumbed to the verdict of salvation, social irrelevance and absurdity, which remains stereotypical to this day, although their ethical content and social-psychological function have been explicitly stated since the late 20th century. After the experiences of National Socialism and the Second World War, the patriotic poems were rejected as martial and chauvinistic and only occasionally appreciated for their literary quality.

Gleim's achievements in other literary genres also mostly received a negative evaluation in the history of literature, since his works are "repeatedly judged retrospectively on the basis of knowledge of those poems of the later 18th century which today must undoubtedly be considered the high points of the respective genres."

In memory of Gleim, the Gleim Literature Prize , a German culture prize that has been awarded by the Gleimhaus sponsorship group since 1995 , was named after him. Furthermore, the Gleimtunnel , the Gleimviertel and the Gleimstraße in Berlin were named after him .


An important project of Gleim and other poets of his generation in the development of German literature was the establishment of German as a literary language ( despite the ignorance of Frederick II of Prussia, whom Gleim otherwise enthusiastically revered). In the case of Gleim, these efforts were accompanied by extensive patronage . He influenced numerous poet biographies, some significantly, such as those of Johann Heinrich Voss , Johann Gottfried Seume , Jean Paul , Johann Benjamin Michaelis and Wilhelm Heinse .

Friendship culture

Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim, painting by Johann Heinrich Ramberg , 1789, Gleimhaus Halberstadt

Supported by the socially oriented and virtuous friendship idea of ​​the mid-18th century, Gleim always tried to promote sociable and literary group formation. During his time in Berlin he was in close personal contact with u. a. Karl Wilhelm Ramler , Johann Joachim Spalding , Ewald von Kleist . Later in Halberstadt, Gleim moved intellectuals and poets to Halberstadt. So at the beginning of the 1770s, the so-called “Halberstädter Dichterkreis” was formed with Johann Georg Jacobi , Wilhelm Heinse , Johann Benjamin Michaelis , Christoph August Tiedge , Klamer Eberhard Karl Schmidt , and Leopold Friedrich Günther von Goeckingk . Gleim was also in close contact with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing , Johann Gottfried Herder , Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock , Christoph Martin Wieland , Anna Louisa Karsch , Johann Heinrich Voss and others. a. The relationship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller was ambivalent.

Gleim was a member of the Halberstadt Literary Society, which existed from 1785 to 1810 .


Gleim was a meticulous collector of Enlightenment literary culture. After moving from Berlin to Halberstadt, he had the friends he left behind portrayed in life-size half-length portraits. Over the decades, portraits of other friends were added. Gleim himself spoke of his gallery as his "temple of friendship and muses". He later expanded the concept to include deserving personalities of the time. The collection grew to around 150 portraits, making it the largest portrait gallery of the German Enlightenment.

Starting in the 1770s, Gleim added the bequests and bequests of befriended poets to the collection of his correspondence with over 500 personalities, mostly from the German literary and scholarly world, and thus set up the first literary archive in Germany. In addition, he built up a respectable library, the special treasure of which is the large number of dedicatory copies from author friends.

Estate and Museum

Gleimhaus in Halberstadt

Gleim's collections are largely preserved in the Gleimhaus , which was opened in 1862 as the fourth poetry museum in Germany in its former home at Halberstadt Cathedral . From June 15 to September 15, 2019, the exhibition "Joke - the cheerful side of the Enlightenment" with many links to Gleim can be seen there.

Works (selection)

  • Attempt in joking songs, 2. Tle, Bln. 1744-1745
  • Friendly letters [ed. together with SG Lange], Bln. 1746
  • Romances, Bln. 1756; Fables. 2nd vol. Bln 1756-1757
  • Prussian war songs in the campaigns of 1756 and 1757 by a grenadier. With melodies, Bln. [1758] [Preface by GE Lessing]
  • Songs, fables and romances, Lpz. 1758
  • Songs after the Anakreon, by the author of the experiment in Scherzlichen Liedern, Bln., Braunschweig 1766
  • New songs. From the author of the songs after the anacreon. Bln. 1767
  • Letters from Messrs. Gleim and Jacobi, Bln. 1768
  • Epistles. As a manuscript for friends, Bln. 1769
  • Odes to Horatz, Berlin. 1769
  • Songs for the people, Halberstadt, 1771
  • Poems after the Minnesingers [...], Berlin 1773
  • Halladat or The Red Book. Hamburg 1774;
  • Fables, Bln. 1786
  • The hut. Halberstadt 1794


  • JWL Gleim's all works. First original edition [...] ed. by W. Körte, 8 vols. Halberstadt 1811-1813 a. 1841
  • Prussian war songs, new ed. by A. Sauer, in: Deutsche Literatur-Denkmale IV, o.O. 1884
  • Correspondence between Gleim and Heinse, ed. by C. Schüddekopf, 2 vols. Weimar 1894-1896
  • Correspondence between Gleim and Uz, ed. by C. Schüddekopf, Tübingen 1899 (library of the literary association in Stuttgart; 218)
  • Correspondence between Gleim and Ramler, 2 vols. [Vol. 3 not published], Tübingen 1906-1907 (library of the literary association in Stuttgart; 242; 244)
  • Attempt in Joking Songs, ed. by A. Anger, Stg. 1964
  • "My brother in Apollo". Correspondence between Anna Louisa Karsch and Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim. Edited by Regina Nörtemann and Ute Pott, 2 volumes, Göttingen 1996
  • Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim: Selected Works. Ed. V. Walter Hettche, Göttingen 2003 (Writings of Gleimhaus 1)


  • W. Körte: Johann Wilhelm Ludewig Gleim's life. From his letters and writings. Halberstadt 1811;
  • H. Mohr: “Friendly letters” - literature or private matter? The dispute over Wilhelm Gleim's estate. In Jb. D. Ms. Dt. Hochstifts, 1973, pp. 14-75.
  • G. Early Care: Friendly Pictures. On the historical significance of the portrait collection in the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt. In: Theatrum Europaeum. Festschr. for Elida Maria Szarota. Mn. 1982, pp. 429-452.
  • B. Hanselmann: Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim and his friendships or The way to Arcadia. Bern u. a. 1989 ( Europ. Hochschulschr .: Row 1; 1133)
  • Ute Pott: Conversations by letter. About the correspondence between Anna Louisa Karsch and Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim. With an attachment of previously unprinted letters from the correspondence between Gleim and Caroline Luise von Klencke. Dissertation Berlin 1995, Göttingen 1998.
  • GA Bürger and JWL Gleim. Edited by H.-J. Kertscher, Tübingen 1996 ( Hallesche's contributions to the European Enlightenment; 3)
  • Gerlinde Wappler: "You are a boisterous friend". People around Gleim I. With a contribution by David Lee to Karl Wilhelm Ramler. Oschersleben 1998.
  • Gerlinde Wappler: "Goodbye, dear father". People around Gleim II. Oschersleben 2000.
  • Ute Pott: Gleim, Johann Wilhelm Ludwig. In: The Music in Past and Present , Vol. 7, 2002.
  • The friendship stamp in the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt. Portraits from the 18th century, edited by H. Scholke. With an essay by W. Adam. Leipzig 2000, 2nd edition 2004.
  • The century of friendship. Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim and his contemporaries. Exhibition cat. Gleimhaus Halberstadt, ed. v. Ute Pott, Göttingen 2004 (= writings of Gleimhaus Halberstadt. 3)
  • Ute Pott: Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim's archive of friendship. In: Klaus Manger, Ute Pott (ed.): Rituals of friendship. Heidelberg 2006 ( Event Weimar - Jena. Culture around 1800. Aesthetic Research, 7), pp. 233–245.
  • Doris Schumacher: A temple for friendship. Gleim's portrait collection in Halberstadt against the background of the history of monuments from the 18th and early 19th centuries. In: Klaus Manger and Ute Pott (eds.): Rituals of friendship. Heidelberg 2006 ( Event Weimar - Jena. Culture around 1800. Aesthetic Research, 7), pp. 247–262.
  • Reimar F. Lacher: "Whoever sees it hears it talk". The friendship stamp in the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt. In: Beacon. 20 cultural memorials. Ed. V. Hanna Delft von Wolzüge, Volker Probst and Gabriele Rommel. o. O. 2009, pp. 54-63.
  • Diana Stört: Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim and the social collecting practice in the 18th century. Hamburg 2010 (= writings on cultural history, 19th)
  • From human to human. Portrait art and portrait culture of the Enlightenment. Exhibition cat. Gleimhaus Halberstadt, ed. v. Reimar F. Lacher, with contributions by Helmut Börsch-Supan and Doris Schumacher. Göttingen 2010. (= publications of the Gleimhaus Halberstadt, 7.)
  • Annegret Loose: "Gleimii et amicorum!". The library of Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim and his friends. In: Reading worlds - historical libraries. Book collections of the 18th century in museums and libraries in Saxony-Anhalt. Ed. V. Katrin Dziekan. Hall / S. 2011 ( Saxony-Anhalt and the 18th century, 3) pp. 90–109.

Web links

Wikisource: Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ W. Körte, Johann Wilhelm Ludewig Gleim's life. From his letters and writings, Halberstadt 1811
  2. Walter Hettche: Afterword. In: Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim: Selected works. Ed. V. Walter Hettche, Göttingen 2003 (Schriften des Gleimhauses 1), pp. 583–609
  3. Walter Hettche: Afterword. In: Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim: Selected works. Ed. V. Walter Hettche, Göttingen 2003 (Schriften des Gleimhaus 1), p. 599
  4. Ute Pott: Entry "Gleim, Johann Wilhelm Ludwig" in: The music in history and present, Vol. 7, 2002.
  5. The Century of Friendship. Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim and his contemporaries. Exhibition cat. Gleimhaus Halberstadt, ed. v. Ute Pott, Göttingen 2004 (publications by Gleimhaus Halberstadt 3)