Joseph Victor Widmann

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Joseph Victor Widmann

Joseph Victor Widmann (also: Joseph Viktor Widmann and Josef Viktor Widmann ; born February 20, 1842 in Nennowitz (Brněnské Ivanovice), now part of Brno ; † November 6, 1911 in Bern ) was a Swiss writer , editor , columnist , literary critic and Journalist .

Life, work and aftermath

Joseph Victor Widmann (1842–1911) writer, editor, columnist, literary critic and journalist.  Residential building at Kanonengasse 1, 4410 Liestal, Switzerland.  Inscription above the door: The poet spent his youth in this house
Memorial plaque on the residential building Kanonengasse 1 in Liestal

Widmann spent his childhood and youth in the rectory of Liestal , where his father Joseph Otto Widmann, a former Cistercian monk from Heiligenkreuz Abbey , was a reformed city ​​pastor. A frequent guest in the rectory was Widmann's friend Carl Spitteler, who was three years his junior . After attending school in Liestal and Basel, he studied Protestant theology and philosophy in Basel, Heidelberg and Jena. In 1865 Widmann married Carl Spitteler's widowed aunt Sophie Brodbeck, b. Ernst (1836–1911), from Winterthur . In 1868 he became director of the Bern residents 'girls' school, but in 1880 - despite his extraordinary popularity with students - he was relieved of his post or not re-elected because, in the opinion of the authorities , his epics Buddha and Moses and Zipora express a " corrosive worldview" brought. From 1880 he was feuilleton -Redaktor at the Bern newspaper Der Bund .

Widmann acquired the house on the "Murihalde" in Bern from the mother of the later artist and writer Bertha Züricher , who reported several times during the Berner Woche about her memories of Widmann in words and pictures .

During his lifetime, Widmann was one of the most influential literary critics and promoters in Switzerland. He encouraged Carl Spitteler to pursue his career as a writer, supported Ida Bindschedler , discovered Ricarda Huch and Robert Walser , whom he helped to get his first publications, traveled through Italy with Johannes Brahms from 1874 and corresponded with Gottfried Keller .

"I have never known anyone who, like he did when he appeared, aroused joy all around and refreshed the courage to face life."

- Carl Spitteler

“Meanwhile, his noble liveliness instilled in me the greatest confidence. Encouragement and encouragement emanate from people who are able to charm. "

- Robert Walser

“You have mastered the great task of writing another Italian trip, and you have blown the bird in front of many newcomers. Even the splitting of the travel subject into two persons, who have to divide each other in views and judgments, is an ingenious grip, like the egg of Columbus, and carried out with as much grace as wisdom, in that with Müslin the extravagant quirk is everywhere in the right place and that makes the humor all the finer. And so what the two gentlemen see and enjoy, in spite of the century that has almost passed since Göthe, still brings so much of the new, unsaid, surprising that the volume of Hesperian literature will in future be integrated. "

- From a letter from Gottfried Keller to J. V. Widmann dated August 4, 1881

«Apart from Leuthold and Gottfried Keller, there is no one among contemporary Swiss poets who could dispute the palm of his hand; Even Gottfried Keller lags behind him when it comes to mastering form. "

- Franz Bornmüller, Biographical Writer's Lexicon of the Present (1882)

Widmann's critical review of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil in the Bund was one of the earliest reception of Nietzsche and may have won the then almost completely unknown philosopher some readers; Nietzsche himself felt at least partially misunderstood in this.

Widmann fountain in Bern
Secondary school Liestal.  Widmann fountain, relief "The saint and the animals".  Inaugurated on November 6, 1961. The relief can no longer be seen on the fountain today.
Widmann fountain at the Burg secondary school in Liestal
Ponte Widmann and Sotoportego Widmann in Venice
Ponte Widmann and the beginning of Sotoportego Widmann in Venice (view from Calle Larga Widmann)

To commemorate Widmann, the Widmann fountain was built in Bern in 1914 at the southern end of the Hirschengraben (opposite the Bund editorial office at the time ) , which has been adorned by Hermann Haller's bronze statue Young Man with Blue Thrush since 1923 . In Liestal one and was the 1946th a. Widmann's poetry museum opened. On the 50th anniversary of Widmann's death, the Widmann fountain was inaugurated on November 6, 1961 in the playground of the Burg secondary school in Liestal; originally a relief with the title The Saint and the Animals was attached to one side of the basin . There are streets named after J. V. Widmann in Liestal and Thun . In Venice there is a Calle Larga Widmann that merges into the Ponte Widmann (Widmann Bridge), on the other side of which the Sotoportego Widmann branches off to the right in a southerly direction . Widmann's estate is kept in the Liestal Poet and City Museum and in the Bern Burger Library.

Widmann's literary works, which include plays , stories , verses and travelogues , are largely forgotten today, but are gradually being rediscovered.

"As a poet he has proven himself through his imagination, strength of characteristics, nobility of disposition and an uncommon ease of speech treatment."

“In Joseph Victor Widmann's writings, Dr. Bettelheim repeats the same ideal that fulfills all Viennese poetry from Grillparzer to Saar and Marie Ebner ; this ideal is called: "Peace to the soul". Widmann is the healthy child of a healthy cross between the Austrian and Swiss spirit; the columnist Widmann shows the same grace as the columnists of Vienna. "

- New Free Press , 1895

«Known to the readers of the“ Bund ”as a brilliant columnist and critic, JV Widmann is at the same time our most versatile and productive poet, who, however, has not yet found the recognition he deserves, although he has been a writer for 30 years in Germany only broke through the barriers of literary cliques with the performance of his play “Beyond Good and Evil”. He is just one of the real poets, and it is well known that in Germanic countries these are only gauged for their meaning at the age of 60 or rather 70, usually long after their death . "

- At the domestic stove (Swiss illustrated monthly), 1900

«Several of his much-read travel books […] clearly reveal their columnist origins and really need not be ashamed of them. Because Widmann is one of the not exactly numerous luminaries of the modern art genre brought to life by journalism, which intersperses the studies of the historian, critic and philosopher with elements of lyrical and epic poetry and pours the mixture thus obtained into a new, graceful form that we call feuilleton . The columnist should be an artist, and Widmann is a master of this art. "

«He seems to have retained just as much of the light Viennese blood as serves to pleasantly revive the Swiss national character. Our heavy, tough human pastries can use such sourdough well. "

«Widmann is one of the most subtle poets going there, but his works have not yet reached the people enough. He was one of those poets who, according to Lessing, are more praised than read. "

“He had a quirk. Inclined to irony, mischievous, colorful, light, graceful, smiling, at times dandy, he is strongly reminiscent of Ariost and Wieland , with whom he has in common the graceful, often playful form and the elegant flow of verses. "

- Radio Vienna, 1927

«Widmann was an exemplary journalist; receptive, cosmopolitan, well-educated, so that he could draw inspiration from the day's processes and combine it with higher points of view, witty, witty, not too easy and not too difficult, more stimulating than instructive, rich in ideas, with all mobility stuck in the basis of character. In addition, he was a poet. He had an admiration that I couldn't understand for Spitteler, for whom he prepared the way as much as possible and whom he placed high above himself; on the other hand, I believe that he, not Spitteler, had the native poetic spirit, even though he may have expressed himself in a limited area. He had a lyrical vein, the lyre was his own, which you put into the hands of poetry when you depict it figuratively. Since Spitteler lacks the lyric-melodic element, I did not want to allow him to be considered a poet. Widmann was too free to be angry with me for this, just as he did not regard me less or give up because Spitteler wanted nothing to do with me. Until his death he tried tirelessly to support me by discussing my books and references; I still sometimes worry that I haven't shown him enough how grateful I felt his kindness. "

«Hold it up and worth it! He loved your country, his mountains, his freedom. He loved you too, and perhaps most of all when, as a stranger, he felt that his being was not rooted in your nationality, that he was called to set up the image of a freer, higher humanity before you. And despite that love, he never flattered you. Don't forget that either! "


Josef Viktor and Sophie Widmann's children were the painter Johanna Viktoria Schäfer-Widmann (1871–1943; see literature: 1939 ), the painter Fritz Widmann (1869–1937), who settled in Zurich in 1899 and lived in the Brahmshaus in Rüschlikon , Maria Clementine (1868–1965), who was briefly married to the editor and local researcher Eligio Pometta , and the writer Max Widmann (1867–1946; see selected  volumes , letters and literature: 1922/24 ); his daughter or J. V. Widmann's granddaughter was the actress Ellen Widmann . - Widmann's biographer Elisabeth Widmann (1871–1969; see  literature: 1922/24 ), who also wrote for the Bund and its “Sunday paper”, was his half-sister.



Published posthumously (selection)

  • Ricarda Yikes. Essays on their seals. Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1913 (16 pages).
  • The death of Heracles. A previously unpublished poetry for music. Separately printed 1913/1914.
  • A double life and other stories. Bern 1915.
  • Adolescence and other stories. Bern 1915.
  • Doctor Wild's honeymoon. Narrative. Basel 1923.
  • The do-gooders. Historical novella. Frauenfeld 1923.
  • Seven stories. Frauenfeld 1942.
  • The wrong time of Mantua. Autumn days in the Bernese Alps. Bern 1942.
  • Jugendeselei / Die Hasen von Turfflingen. Two stories. Bern 1949.

Selected volumes

  • Max Widmann (Ed.): Selected features.  - Internet Archive , Frauenfeld 1913
  • Jonas Fränkel (Ed.): Features. Bern / Stuttgart 1964.
  • Elisabeth Müller, Roland Schärer (Ed.): Dear readers, do not say: No! Selected texts. Cosmos, Muri bei Bern 1986, ISBN 3-305-00170-4 .
  • Rudolf Käser, Elsbeth Pulver (ed.): “A journalist out of temperament”. Josef Viktor Widmann. Selected features . Zytglogge, Gümligen 1992, ISBN 3-7296-0426-0 .
  • Carl Spitteler: Das Haus Widmann , in the anthology “Autobiographical Writings”, sixth volume “Collected Works” on behalf of the Swiss Confederation. Artemis Verlags-Aktiengesellschaft, Zurich 1947.



Web links

Commons : Joseph Victor Widmann  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Photo: JV Widmann's birthplace in Nennowitz in Moravia (when the plaque is attached). In: Switzerland , Vol. 17 (1913), p. 93.
  2. Joseph Otto Widmann in the personal dictionary of the canton of Basel-Landschaft. See also Liestal Citizen Family Book. Organized alphabetically and according to relationships and edited by J. Widmann, Pastor. Liestal 1860.
  3. ^ History of the city of Liestal at
  4. Myliestal: rectory. Retrieved October 9, 2019 .
  5. Carl Spitteler: The Widmann rectory in Liestal. In: The Bern Week in words and pictures . Issue 41 (1913), pp. 323–326 ( PDF, 5 MB at
  6. ^ Encyclopedia entry in the Historisch-Topographisches Lexikon der Stadt Bern; Article The residents' girl school in Bern on the annual report of the educational institution in: Pedagogical observer № 29 of July 20, 1877, p. 2 f.
  7. ^ Maria Waser: Josef Viktor Widmann , Huber, Frauenfeld 1927, p. 115
  8. ^ Charles Linsmayer : Josef Viktor Widmann 1842–1911 .
  9. ^ Bertha Züricher: My first memory of JV Widmann. In: Switzerland № 4/1913, p. 91 f.
  10. ^ Roman Bucheli : Read Robert Walser , NZZ from May 27, 2006.
  11. A friendship that almost fell by the wayside , the Bund, November 30, 2011
  12. Victor Ravizza: A sense rests: Johannes Brahms in Italy , sections “Oddities” and “And the Music”, NZZ from 9 September 2018.
  13. Cosmos Verlag website for the book Dear readers, do not say: No! .
  14. Robert Walser: Poet life . Huber, Frauenfeld 1918, p. 17 ( digitized in the Internet Archive).
  15. ^ Keller - Widmann correspondence at the Gottfried Keller portal of the University of Zurich .
  16. Widmann-Brunnen in the series "Once and Now" of the weekly newspaper Bernerbär .
  17. Chronicle for the month of July 1946 at, accessed on January 21, 2018.
  18. ^ Ernst Zimmerli: Baselbieter Heimatbuch, Volume 9, 1962, p. 209. Photo: Rosmarie Leu-Müller, Liestal
  19. In the playground of today's Burgstrasse secondary school (Burgstrasse 35), see chronicle for the month of November 1961 at, accessed on January 21, 2018.
  20. in Thun at, accessed on January 21, 2018.
  21. Blog entry from July 29, 2018 (with a photo of the street sign) by René P. Moor on “The Stepper”, accessed on March 11, 2019.
  22. ^ Maria Waser: Widmann in Venice. In: Switzerland , vol. 14 (1910), p. 94 ff.
  23. Joseph Victor Widmann's estate in the catalog of the Burgerbibliothek Bern .
  24. ^ Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon , Volume 20. Leipzig 1909, p. 591; Full text at .
  25. Neue Freie Presse № 11237 of December 5, 1895, p. 5 (Small Chronicle); Digitized at ANNO .
  26. ^ At the domestic stove № 4, Volume IV (1900/01), p. 106; Digitized for e-periodicals.
  27. Neues Wiener Tagblatt (daily edition) № 50, February 20, 1902, p. 9; Digitized at ANNO.
  28. Switzerland, Vol. 6 (1902), p. 90; Digital version (PDF, 8.2 MB)) at
  29. Neues Wiener Journal № 6483, November 8, 1911, p. 6; Digitized at ANNO.
  30. Radio-Wien № 46, August 12, 1927, pp. 2092 f .; Digitized at ANNO.
  31. ^ Ricarda Huch: Spring in Switzerland. Autobiographical representation. Zurich 1938. Published in: Gesammelte Werke , Vol. 11 , Keipenheuer & Witsch, Köln u. Berlin 1966, p. 192.
  32. ^ Otto von Greyerz : Josef Viktor Widmann. February 20th. In: Switzerland. № 4/1913, p. 82.
  33. Why in Zurich? Our survey to Bern artists who live and work in Zurich. In: Zürcher Illustrierte № 14 (1933), p. 436 (accessed on February 26, 2020).
  34. Detailed information on Fritz Widmann in the Kalliope network .
  35. ^ Person Sheet on the private website for the Lousmeau-Dupont Family by David Dupont.
  36. Max Widmann in the personal dictionary of the canton of Basel-Landschaft.
  37. Look around. Switzerland. In: News of the Association of Swiss Librarians , Issue 4 (1969), p. 112 ( digitized at
  38. Neue Freie Presse № 16245 of November 11, 1909, p. 8 ("Kleine Chronik") ( digitized at ANNO )
  39. according to Max Widmann "the German Schiller Prize" (see Josef Viktor Widmann. A picture of life. Second half of life. Huber, Frauenfeld and Leipzig 1924, p. 348.)
  40. ^ Anton Bettelheim : "Biographical" by JV Widmann. In: Supplement to the Neue Freie Presse No. 16934 of November 12, 1911, pp. 31–34, here page 33, column 3 (heading “Literaturblatt”) .
  41. according to BLKÖ (see literature) "Schwank"
  42. as an author in Meyers Konversations-Lexikon 1905 and BLKÖ
  43. A huge oratorio with explosive content . Text with an overview of the contents of the concert on June 23, 2018 on the website of the «men’s choir zürich» ( program as PDF; 730 KB ).
  44. Detailed presentation and analysis (with music examples) in: Hermann Kretzschmar : Guide through the concert hall. II. Department. Volume II. Oratorios and secular choral works. Leipzig 1920 (4th edition), pp. 393-407 ( Textarchiv - Internet Archive ).
  45. Margaret Ross Griffel: Operas in German: A Dictionary (Revisited edition). Rowman & Littlefield, 2018, p. 440.
  46. Dramatized by Otto von Greyerz under the title Der Weltverbesserer. Comedy in two acts (based on Widmann's novella “Die Weltverbesserer”) ( digitized version of the 1912 edition in the Internet Archive ).
  47. Dirk Strohmann: Maurice Maeterlinck's reception in the German-speaking countries (1891-1914) , p. 213