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GERSTACKER, FRIEDRICH (1816-1872), who enjoyed a most extensive popularity as a novelist and a writer of travels both at home. and abroad, was born at Hamburg on 10th May 1816. Having lost his father at the age of nine, he was placed under the guardianship of an uncle at Brunswick, who sent him to a house of business at Cassel as clerk. He soon got tired, however, of the monotonous commercial routine, and selected the more active life of a farmer, in which capacity lie spent the years from 1835 to 1837 in Saxony. But the uneventful agricultural life was unable to repress in him the innate roving instinct which, according to his own statement, had received a strong impulse in his eighth year by the perusal of Robinson C rasoe. The word " America " had from that time exercised on him an irresistible charm, and so he went in 1837 from Bremen to New York. He travelled on foot over all parts of the United States, working as he went for his bare subsistence, and then settled for some time in Arkansas, where he led the life of a roving sportsman, Only now and then he visited inhabited places to see civilized society, and to earn some means by whatever work lie could obtain. Thus he went in 1842 to Point Cottpee in Louisiana, where he undertook the management of a hotel. This time, however, he did not return with the acquired means to the backwoods, but repaired to his German home to see his mother and other relatives, after having led an adventurous life for six years and a half. On his return to Germany he found himself, to his great surprise, known as an author, on a limited scale at least. His mother had shown his diary, which he- regularly sent home, and which contained descriptions of his adventures in the New World, to the editor of the Rosen, who readily published them in his periodical. The travelling sketches having found great favour with the German public, Gerstacker issued them, in 1844, in a collected form, under the title of Streit- and Jagdzilge durch die Vereinigten Staaten Arordamerikas. His next literary labours consisted of translations from the English, during the performance of which it occurred to him that he might himself become an original author, since he was able to delineate original characters, to relate remarkable occurrences, and to describe romantic scenery from his own experience, whilst others were obliged to draw upon their imagination only in producing works of fiction. Accordingly Gerstlicker issued, in 1845, his first novel, Die Regulatoren in Arkansas, and henceforth the stream of his productiveness flowed on uninterruptedly. In 1849 he again repaired to America, being this time provided with a grant from the then " German Government," and acting at the same time as correspondent to the Angsburger Zeitung. After having made very extensive travels both in America, Polynesia, and Australia, he returned in 1852 to Leipsic. In 1860 his innate restlessness drove him to South America, chiefly with a view of inspecting the German colonies there. After having traversed nearly all the principal South American countries he returned to Germany, but for a short time only, for in 1862 he accompanied the Duke Ernest of Coburg-Gotha to Egypt and Abyssinia. This was his last great journey, after the return from which he lived first near Gotha and then at Brunswick, where he died on May 31, 1872.
Gerstiicker was greatly esteemed and liked as a man, on account of his genial temper and straightforward character, and as an author he enjoyed an almost unprecedentdd popularity at home and was very favourably known abroad. The charm of his productions consists in the natural freshness of his descriptions, nearly all of which have an exotic background, and in the originality of his characters, the most prominent of which are drawn from real life. He did not possess any high literary power, and probably never touched up what he had once written ; his writings lack therefore on the whole that artistic finish which forms one of the principal elements of a good writer. This defect, however, impresses even on his works of fiction the stamp of probability, nay of truthfulness. His writings nowhere betray that intention of producing an effect which so often destroys the illusion of the reader in elaborately worked out productions. He generally writes in a homely, ungarnished manner, just as a traveller would relate his adventures amidst a circle of friends. His writings, therefore, nearly always rivet the attention of the reader from beginning to end. The works of Gerstficker have, besides, the merit that they formed a wholesome counterpoise against the too idealistic tendency of the literature of Germany, against the lax and realistic school of France, and against' the morbid sensationalism which prevailed in England. A number of his works have been translated into several modern languages, but mostly into English; their descriptions of exciting adventures on land and sea affording, with their sturdy humour, congenial reading to the English-speaking community in the Old and New World. His best works, from a literary point of view, are, besides the above-mentioned Regidatoren, his Fluszpiraten des Mississippi, his South Sea novel Tahiti, his Australian romance Die Leiden, Strdflinge, his Matrosenleben and Blau, Wasser. His collected works have been issued in a cheap and handy edition published at Jena.