Wilhelm Raabe

Portrait: Wilhelm Raabe
Wilhelm Raabe, marble bust by Carl Seffner, 1916, Stiftung von Fritz Otto Klasing, Velhagen & Klasing, Bielefeld and Leipzig
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig, Fotografie: Michael Setzpfandt

Wilhelm Raabe

School dropout and successful author

I made a fortune in South Africa and that is something that people without dead languages, literature, art history and philosophy do more easily and better than others. And so it is basically the right and most conducive thing to spread culture …

Wilhelm Raabe, Stopfkuchen, 1891

After the publication of his novel Die Chronik der Sperlingsgasse (1856 or 1857), Wilhelm Raabe achieved considerable success as a professional author within a very short period who was able to live exclusively from the money he earned from his publications. It may be a comfort to many young people to know that Wilhelm Raabe dropped out of school in Wolfenbüttel, prematurely ended his training as a book trader in Magdeburg and was only a guest student at Berlin’s university. Despite this he understood a lot about life and became an important representative of poetic realism who was also sensitive to ecological matters (Pfisters Mühle, 1884).

As a freelance author, Raabe lived from his writing. In a biographical piece from the year 1906, he wrote: “I found ‘readers’ for the writings from my first creative period (…), for the rest only ‘enthusiasts’, but in them, in my opinion, certainly the most respected members of the public that the German people has to offer today.” When he was old, Raabe ceased to write and embarked on a series of travels. In 1910, now a celebrated man, he died in Braunschweig. In his Lower Saxonian birthplace Eschershausen he was honoured posthumously by erecting a Raabe memorial in 1931 and naming a school after him.