[Index of Biographies]

Joachim Christian Friedrich Schulz (1762-1798)

[This is a draft of an article in The Dictionary of Eighteenth Century German Philosophers, 3 vols., edited by Manfred Kuehn and Heiner Klemme (London/New York: Continuum, 2010).]

Joachim Christian Friedrich Schulz (also: Joachim Christoph Friedrich Schulz/Schultz, and commonly given as Friedrich Schulz)[1] was born (1 January 1762) in Magdeburg and died (27 September/9 October 1798) in Mitau. During his brief life, Schulz became one of the most popular authors of his day, translating and writing both novels and non-fiction, and serving as an important eyewitness to current events. His best known works are his Travels from Riga to Warsaw (1795-96), which includes an astute discussion of the events surrounding the second partitioning of Poland, and his accounts of revolutionary Paris (1789, 1791).

Schulz’s father was a distiller of brandy who traveled to the East Indies, never to return, when Joachim was eighteen. As a child of ten, Joachim ran away from home with an acting troupe, but was soon brought back home, under blows, and soon began studies at the local gymnasium. He became especially proficient in French, such that when he traveled to Halle to study at the university at the age of seventeen, he was able to support himself as a translator. Although enrolled as a theology student he devoted little time to that subject, and after three semesters wandered off to Dresden with a friend (the future poet and author Jakob Andreas Brennecke), where they both joined an acting troupe for a brief time, until the friend decided to join the military, and Schulz thought to try his luck as a writer. His first novels (Karl Treumann und Wilhelmine Rosenfeld and Ferdinand von Löwenhain) appeared in 1781 and quickly found a paying audience, with publications appearing in a steady succession ever after, Moritz (1784) being his first big success (Meusel and Recke provide detailed bibliographies). This writing career offered Schulz considerable opportunity for travel, and he spent time in Vienna and Berlin, but predominantly in Weimar, where his closest acquaintances were two fellow freemasons: the philosophy professor K. L. Reinhold [bio], and the translator and publisher J. J. C. Bode (of whom he wrote, after Bode’s death in December 1793: “We knew each other as two humans seldom do. […] While he was alive, I had two souls”). Schulz began publishing extensively in Wieland’s Teutsche Merkur (over forty articles, many of which were installments of longer works later published separately). One anonymously published novel (Life and Death of the Poet Firlifimini, 1784) was a satirical polemic aimed at the Berlin publisher and literary czar C. F. Nicolai.

Schultz traveled to Paris in June 1789 for a six month stay, witnessing the early events of the French Revolution. The resulting publications (1789, 1791) were notable for their impartial reporting of the events, as well as of the culture and manners of the day. While traveling from Paris to Berlin, he stopped in Weimar, where he was given the title of ‘Hofrat’ (30 March 1790), and once in Berlin was called further north and east to Mitau (then the capital of Courland; now Jelgava, Latvia), to assume a position as professor of history at the Academia Petrina (beginning January 1791). Having arrived at Mitau, however, he was soon elected to serve as a delegate to the Polish Parliament (Reichstag), resulting in a nine-month stay in Warsaw (September 1791 - June 1792), and of which he gave an account in his Travels from Riga to Warsaw (1795/96). His actions during this time created many enemies among the aristocracy, who unsuccessfully tried to derail his career with rumours that he was a Jacobin. Back in Mitau, Schulz taught only two semesters before poor health caused him to travel to Italy for a year of convalescence (1793/94), followed by extended visits to Vienna, Berlin, Jena, and Weimar, returning to Mitau in 1795. Schulz’s last three years were plagued by poor health — dizziness, nausea, swollen joints, memory loss, and eventually a general mental confusion[2] — and he died at the age of thirty-six.

Schulz wrote thirteen novels and many other works of prose. A flattering review of much of this work by A. W. Schlegel (Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, 1797) noted that much of his fiction involved re-workings of the writings of others, but that two novels were of his own invention: Moritz (1785) and Leopoldine (1791). These novels were much admired by his contemporaries, but rather less so by those who followed, and the historian of literature Karl Goedeke assessed Schulz thus: “Supposedly averse to geniuses, he behaved in the impolite fashion of a genius, only without displaying any.” Of more lasting value have been his eyewitness accounts of political events in France and in Poland.

[1] Schulz’s full name enjoys many versions in the literature — most commonly ‘Joachim Christoph Friedrich Schulz’ (when he isn’t referred to simply as 'Friedrich Schulz'). The only published source I have come across that gives his name as ‘Joachim Christian Friedrich Schulz’ is J. G. Hamann Briefwechsel (Ziesemer/Henkel 1955-79). I thank Karl-Heinz Raschtuttis for calling my attention to Schulz’s autobiographical sketch provided in his Almanach (1782) and in which he gives his full name as ‘Joachim Christian Friedrich Schulz’. See also Sangmeister (2001).

[2] Karl Morgenstern, however, spent some time in Mitau in 1802 on his way to a teaching post in Dorpat, and noted that Schulz “died of exhaustion, but had not wholly lost his mind” [in völligem Wahnsinn doch nicht] [Stieda 1917, 215].


Moritz. Ein kleiner Roman (Dessau/Leipzig, 1785). First published as installments in Der Teutsche Merkur (1783-84, 1786). 3rd expanded edition: 1787.

Friedrich der Große. Versuch eines historischen Gemäldes (Weimar 1787). First published as installments in Der Teutsche Merkur (1786).

Geschichte der großen Revolution in Frankreich (Berlin, 1789); 2nd exp. ed: 1790.

Leopoldine, ein Gegenstück zum Moritz, 2 pts. (Leipzig, 1791). First published as installments in Der Teutsche Merkur (1787).

Über Paris und die Pariser (Berlin, 1791). First published as installments in Der Teutsche Merkur (1790).

(anon.), Reise eines Liefländers von Riga nach Warschau, durch Südpreußen, über Breslau, Dresden, Karlsbad, Bayreuth, Nürnberg, Regensburg, München, Salzburg, Linz, Wien und Klagenfurt, nach Botzen in Tyrol, 3 vols. (Berlin: Friedrich Vieweg, 1795/96). 2nd ed: Berlin, 1802. Translated into Swedish (1797) and French (1807).

Other Relevant Works

Almanach der Belletristen und Belletristinnen fürs Jahr 1782 (Berlin, 1782).  [Reprint, with an afterword by Alexander Kosenina: Wehrhahn Verlag, 2005]

(anon.), Leben und Tod des Dichters Firlifimini (Dessau, 1784).

Handbuch der allgemeinen Weltgeschichte für Ungelehrte (Berlin, 1784).

Handbuch der Erdbeschreibung für Ungelehrte (Berlin, 1785).

Literarische Reise durch Deutschland (Wien, 1785-86). Rpt. edited by Christoph Weiß and Reiner Wild (St. Ingbert, 1996).

Kleine Romane, 5 vols. (Leipzig, 1788-1790).

Kleine prosaische Schriften, 7 vols. (Weimar, 1788-1807).

Further Reading

ADB, vol. 32, pp. 742-44 (Franz Brümmer).

Donnert, Erich, “Joachim Christoph Friedrich Schulz und seine ‘Reise eines Livländers’,” in Sehen und Beschreiben. Europäischen Reisen im 18. und frühen 19. Jahrhundert, ed. by Wolfgang Griep (Heide: Westholsteinische Verlag, 1981), pp. 279-89. [Eutiner Forschungen, vol. 1]

Kosellek, Gerhard, ed., Friedrich Schulz, Briefe (Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag, 2001).

Meusel, Johann Georg, Lexikon der vom Jahr 1750 bis 1800 verstorbene teutschen Schriftstellern (Leipzig, 1812), vol. 12, pp. 526-31.

Recke, Johann Friedrich von and Karl Eduard Napiersky, Allgemeines Schriftsteller- und Gelehrten-Lexikon der Provinzen Livland, Esthland und Kurland (Mitau, 1832), vol. 4, pp. 141-52.

Sangmeister, Dirk, “‘Bis zum Verlust der rechten Hand’. Der freie Schriftsteller Friedrich Schulz (1762–1798),” in Triangulum. Germanistisches Jahrbuch für Estland, Lettland und Litauen, vol. 8 (2001), pp. 25-43.

Schlegel, August Wilhelm, unsigned review of Schulz’s publications, Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, ##130-31, April 25-26, 1797, cols. 217-32. Rpt. in Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke, ed. Böcking, vol. 5, pp. 25-45.

Schlichtegroll, Friedrich, Nekrolog auf das Jahr 1797 (Gotha, 1801), vol. 2, pp. 115-44.

Zernack, Claus, “Die Distanz des ‘Livländers’. Joachim Christoph Friedrich Schulz über die Polenpolitik Katharinas II.” In: Conrad Grau, Serguei Karp, and Jurgen Voss, Deutsch-Russische Beziehungen im 18. Jahrhundert: Kultur, Wissenschaft und Diplomatie (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1997), pp. 375-38.

[Index of Biographies]