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Johann Kaspar Lavater.

Johann Kaspar Lavater (November 15, 1741 – January 2, 1801) was a Swiss poet and physiognomist.

Biography

Lavater was born at ZĂĽrich, and educated at the Gymnasium there, where J. J. Bodmer and J. J. Breitinger were among his teachers. At barely twenty-one years of age, Lavater greatly distinguished himself by denouncing, in conjunction with his friend, the painter Henry Fuseli, an iniquitous magistrate, who was compelled to make restitution of his ill-gotten gains.

In 1769 Lavater took Holy Orders, and officiated until his death as deacon or pastor in churches in his native city. His oratorical fervor and genuine depth of conviction gave him great personal influence; he was extensively consulted as a casuist, and was welcomed with enthusiasm on his journeys throughout Germany. His writings on mysticism were widely popular as well.

In the same year (1769), Lavater tried to convert Moses Mendelssohn to Christianity, by sending him a translation of Charles Bonnet's Palingénésie philosophique, and demanding that he either publicly refute Bonnet's arguments or convert. Mendelssohn refused to do either, and many prominent intellectuals took Mendelssohn's side, including Lichtenberg and Herder.

Lavater's name would be forgotten but for his work in the field of physiognomy, Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe (1775–1778). The fame of this book, which found admirers in France and England as well as Germany, rests largely upon the handsome style of publication and the accompanying illustrations. The two principal sources from which Lavater developed his physiognomical studies were the writings of the Italian polymath Giambattista della Porta, and the observations made by Sir Thomas Browne in his Religio Medici (translated into German in 1748 and praised by Lavater).

As a poet, Lavater published Christliche Lieder (1776–1780) and two epics, Jesus Messias (1780) and Joseph von Arimathia (1794), in the style of Klopstock. More relevant to the religious temperament of Lavater's times are his introspective Aussichten in die Ewigkeit (4 vols. 1768-1778), Geheimes Tagebuch von einem Beobachter seiner selbst (2 vols., 1772–1773), and Pontius Pilatus, oder der Mensch in allen Gestalten (4 vols., 1782–1785).

From 1774 on, Goethe was intimately acquainted with Lavater, but later had a falling out with him, accusing him of superstition and hypocrisy. Lavater had a mystic's indifference to historical Christianity, and, although regarded as a champion of orthodoxy, was actually an antagonist of rationalism.

During his later years, Lavater's influence waned, and he incurred considerable ridicule due to his vanity. His conduct during the French occupation of Switzerland brought about his death. On the taking of ZĂĽrich by the French in 1799, Lavater, while trying to appease the aggressors, was shot by an infuriated grenadier; he died over a year later, after protracted sufferings borne with great fortitude.

The Swiss artist and illustrator, Warja Honegger-Lavater, is a direct descendent of Johann Kaspar Lavater.

Works

  • Vermischte Schriften (2 vols., 1774–1781)
  • Kleinere prosaische Schriften (3 vols., 1784–1785)
  • Nachgelassene Schriften (5 vols., 1801–1802)
  • Sämtliche Werke (poems only; 6 vols., 1836–1838)
  • Ausgewählte Schriften (8 vols., 1841–1844).

Sources

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Let none turn over books, or roam the stars in quest of God, who sees him not in man.

Johann Kaspar Lavater (November 15, 1741 – January 2, 1801) was a Swiss poet and physiognomist.

Sourced

  • Act well at the moment, and you have performed a good action to all eternity.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 4.

Aphorisms on Man (c. 1788)

  • Who in the same given time can produce more than others has vigor; who can produce more and better, has talents; who can produce what none else can, has genius.
    • No. 23
  • You may tell a man thou art a fiend, but not your nose wants blowing; to him alone who can bear a thing of that kind, you may tell all.
    • No. 84
  • Say not you know another entirely, till you have divided an inheritance with him.
    • No. 157
  • Have you ever seen a pedant with a warm heart?
    • No. 260
  • If you see one cold and vehement at the same time, set him down for a fanatic.
    • No. 282
  • He who, when called upon to speak a disagreeable truth, tells it boldly and has done is both bolder and milder than he who nibbles in a low voice and never ceases nibbling.
    • No. 302
  • Him, who incessantly laughs in the street, you may commonly hear grumbling in his closet.
    • No. 305
  • Let none turn over books, or roam the stars in quest of God, who sees him not in man.
    • No. 398
  • Trust not him with your secrets, who, when left alone in your room, turns over your papers.
    • No. 449
  • Neatness begets order; but from order to taste there is the same difference as from taste to genius, or from love to friendship.
    • No. 583
  • The public seldom forgive twice.
    • No. 595
  • Venerate four characters: the sanguine who has checked volatility and the rage for pleasure; the choleric who has subdued passion and pride; the phlegmatic emerged from indolence; and the melancholy who has dismissed avarice, suspicion and asperity.
    • No. 609
  • If you mean to know yourself, interline such of these aphorisms as affect you agreeably in reading, and set a mark to such as left a sense of uneasiness with you; and then show your copy to whom you please.
    • No. 643

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHANN KASPAR LAVATER (1741-1801), German poet and physiognomist, was born at Zurich on the 15th of November 1741. He was educated at the gymnasium of his native town, where J. J. Bodmer and J. J. Breitinger were among his teachers. When barely one-and-twenty he greatly distinguished himself by denouncing, in conjunction with his friend, the painter H. Fuseli, an iniquitous magistrate, who was compelled to make restitution of his ill-gotten gains. In 1769 Lavater took orders, and officiated till his death as deacon or pastor in various churches in his native city. His oratorical fervour and genuine depth of conviction gave him great personal influence; he was extensively consulted as a casuist, and was welcomed with demonstrative enthusiasm in his numerous journeys through Germany. His mystical writings were also widely popular. Scarcely a trace of this influence has remained, and Lavater's name would be forgotten but for his work on physiognomy, Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beforderung der Menschenkenntnis and Menschenliebe (1775-1778). The fame even of this book, which found enthusiastic admirers in France and England, as well as in Germany, rests to a great extent upon the handsome style of publication and the accompanying illustrations. It left, however, the study of physiognomy (q.v.), as desultory and unscientific as it found it. As a poet, Lavater published Christliche Lieder (1776-1780) and two epics, Jesus Messias (1780) and Joseph von Arimathia (1794), in the style of Klopstock. More important and characteristic of the religious temperament of Lavater's age are his introspective Aussichten in die Ewigkeit (4 vols., 1768-1778); Geheimes Tagebuch von einem Beobachter seiner selbst (2 vols., 1772-1773) and Pontius Pilatus, oder der Mensch in alien Gestalten (4 vols., 1782-1785). From 1774 on, Goethe was intimately acquainted with Lavater, but at a later period he became estranged from him, somewhat abruptly accusing him of superstition and hypocrisy. Lavater had a mystic's indifference to historical Christianity, and, although esteemed by himself and others a champion of orthodoxy, was in fact only an antagonist of rationalism. During the later years of his life his influence waned, and he incurred ridicule by some exhibitions of vanity. He redeemed himself by his patriotic conduct during the French occupation of Switzerland, which brought about his tragical death. On the taking of Zurich by the French in 1799, Lavater, while endeavouring to appease the soldiery, was shot through the body by an infuriated grenadier; he died after long sufferings borne with great fortitude, on the 2nd of January 1801.

Lavater himself published two collections of his writings, Vermischte Schriften (2 vols., 1774-1781), and Kleinere prosaische Schriften (3 vols., 1784-1785). His Nachgelassene Schriften were edited by G. Gessner (5 vols., 1801-1802); Samtliche Werke (but only poems) (6 vols., 1836-1838); Ausgewdhlte Schriften (8 vols., 1841-1844). See G. Gessner, Lavaters Lebensbeschreibung (3 vols., 1802-1803); U. Hegner, Beitreige zur Kenntnis Lavaters (1836); F. W. Bodemann, Lavater nach seinem Leben, Lehren and Wirken (1856; 2nd ed., 1877); F. Muncker, J. K. Lavater (1883); H. Waser, J. K. Lavater nach Hegners Aufzeichnungen (1894); J. K. Lavater, Denkschrift zum zoo. Todestag (5902).


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