Who was Barthold Heinrich Brockes

Online library


September 22nd: Barthold Heinrich Brockes was born in Hamburg into a wealthy merchant family. His great-grandfather was mayor of the Hanseatic city of Lübeck. The father is also a very successful businessman who leaves a large amount of capital as an inheritance.


After the death of his father, Brockes and his sister Anna Elisabeth are brought up by their mother. He gets private lessons.


Easter: Brockes joins the Johanneum Latin School in Hamburg.


He is enrolled at the academic high school in his hometown, where he studies with Georg Elieser Edzardi, Balthasar Mentzer, Johannes Müller, Eberhard Anckelmann, Vincent Placcius and Johann Albert Fabricius.


Brockes goes on a trip to Dresden with a former business friend of his father's, which he continues with a young nobleman and his court master in Prague.


Back in Hamburg, he learns to dance, fencing and horse riding, is occupied with French and music and is preparing for university. He also writes early childhood poems.


Brockes studies law and philosophy in Halle and attends lectures by Christian Thomasius. His lifestyle is aristocratic. Religious tolerance, the fight against church fanaticism and superstition, revelation, rational thinking and natural law shape Brockes' thinking.


He practiced for six months at the Imperial Court of Justice in Wetzlar, and then went on an educational trip to Geneva via Italy.

In Venice, Rome and Florence, Brockes experienced the glory and splendor of the arts in public life.


Winter: Brockes stayed in Geneva and Lausanne and then traveled to Paris, then via Brussels and Antwerp to the Netherlands. During this educational trip through Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Holland and England, he investigated the flora and fauna of the Alps on the mountains and met personally with the writers of the time. These experiences are reflected in his works.


End of the year: He becomes a licentiate in law in Leiden. Then Brockes returns to Hamburg. He lives on his father's fortune and socializes. He likes to socialize, gives weekly concerts, acquires a small collection of paintings and thus becomes known.

Brockes reads a lot, begins to translate and to write himself.


His mother dies; his sister died while he was in the Netherlands.

Tumults in Hamburg lead to the mass dismissal of councilors by the citizens, the legislative initiative is passed on to them.

The librettist and then Syndicus Lucas von Bostel, who was a friend of Brockes, had him write a serenade on behalf of the council in order to honor the Imperial Conciliation Commission, which was now in Hamburg as a regulatory authority. Brockes himself makes no move to participate in the bourgeois self-government of the city republic. With dedications and occasional poems to high-ranking personalities of the empire, he strives for elevation to the nobility.


"Jesus tortured and dying for the sins of the world" (oratorio, music by Handel, 1712).

Brockes is known as a poet through his passion oratorio "Jesus tortured and dying for the sin of the world". A number of composers, e.g. Reinhard Keizer, Georg Friedrich Handel, Johann Mattheson and Georg Philipp Telemann, set it to music. The work will be performed in front of foreign envoys and the citizens of the noble Hamburg, with the music of Reinhard Keiser. Bach also uses individual pieces for the »St. John Passion«.


Brockes tries to start a civil career in state administration through council elections, but to no avail. He gives up on this goal and focuses more on his spiritual education. He begins to write casual poems.


Brockes marries Anna Ilsabe Lehmann. The marriage produces twelve children, seven survive him.

Brockes begins to hold regular literary discussions with Johann Albert Fabricius, Michael Richey and Johann Ulrich von König.


His translation of Giambattista Marino's "Strage degli Innocenti" appears in Paris. The German version is titled "Verteutschter Bethlehemitischer Kinder-Mord des Knight Marino" and was published six times during his lifetime. Some of his poems are also printed in the appendix to the translations.

January 12th: The result of his literary friendships with Ulrich König and Martin Rickey is the founding of the "Teutschübenden Gesellschaft zur Pflege der Deutschen Sprach und Literatur". Other members also participate: Samuel von Triewald, Brockes' brother-in-law Georg Jakob Hoefft and the pedagogue Johann Huebner.


Brockes spends the summer on his sister-in-law's estate, where he studies.


Brockes is elected councilor. Brockes accepts the position and proves to be an active civil servant.


"Assessment of some rhyming endings, which are used differently from several mouths in Germany, apart, in Upper and Lower Saxony".

As a newly elected senator, he is sent to Vienna with a negotiating delegation in order to normalize the bad relations between Hamburg and its imperial city lord. The city can maintain its statehood, to which Brockes' poems to the emperor and the prince Eugene also contribute. In the following years Brockes was on several diplomatic missions to Vienna, Copenhagen, Berlin and Hanover.


His friend and poet Christian Günter dies in Jena.


Brockes became a member of the "Patriotic Society," which was founded in 1724, and belonged to this society until his death, which also formed a parliamentary group in the council and exercised influence. He contributes 23 contributions to the moral weekly Der Patriot (published between 1724–1726) by the Patriotic Society, which advocates cosmopolitan thinking and voluntary activity for the good of the community. Brockes takes part in the regular meetings with his friend Richey and Johann Albert Fabricius, as well as the council politicians Johann Julius Surland, Johann Klefeker, Johann Julius Anckelmann and Conrad Widow, who is also a friend of Brockes. Other participants are the writers Christian Friedrich Weichmann and Johann Adolf Hoffmann as well as the chaplain John Thomas.


Brockes becomes city judge.

He associated with many cultural personalities of the time, including Hermann Samuel Reimarus, the author of the "Protective pamphlet for the sensible admirers of God", who became Brocke's closest friend.


Brockes holds the office of district judge.

He was raised to the rank of Imperial Palatine by the Prince of Schwarzburg and was given the title "poeta laureatus".


He is delegated by the council to the Colonellschaft, the control body over the Hamburg Citizens' Guard.


Brockes is the Hamburg bailiff in Ritzebüttel at the mouth of the Elbe.

There he writes the seventh volume of his "Earthly Pleasure in God" called "Country Life in Ritzebüttel"

The "earthly pleasure" aroused great attention among contemporaries: it produced imitations and numerous praises and aroused criticism by Breitinger and Gottsched.


Brockes' wife Anna Ilsabe dies.

Hermann Samuel Reimarus visits him in 1740.

Brockes translates Pope's "Trial of Man" and Thompson's "Seasons". He also translates the philosophy of the Abbé Genest, a few fables by de la Motte, parts of Milton's "Paradise Lost" and fragments from Shaftesbury and Voltaire.


Spring: He returns to Hamburg, soon becomes prefect of the citizens' militia and first landlord on the Hamburger Berg.


Brockes becomes landlord of Hamm and Horn.


Board of the Scholarchate.


He translates Pope.


January 16: Brockes dies in Hamburg. Posthumously, "Earthly Pleasure in God", "Swan Song" (1747), and "Works" (1800) appear.