Nicolai, Christoph Friedrich
NICOLAI, CHRISTOPH FRIEDRICH (1733-1811), a German author and bookseller, was born on the 18th of March 1733, at Berlin, where his father was a bookseller. He was educated at a real-school in Berlin, and in 1749 went to Frankfort-on-the-Oder to learn his father's business. In 1752 he returned to Berlin, and soon began to take part in current literary controversy. At that time the leaders of critical opinion in Germany were Gottsched and Bodmer. In 1755 Nicolai issued a book, Briefe fiber den jetzigen Zustand der schonen Wissenschaften, in which he tried to show that each of these writers was in his own way narrow and intolerant. This work secured for the author the friendship of Lessing, whose power as a critic was then beginning to be recognized. In 1757 Nicolai devoted himself exclusively to literature ; but next year, after the death of his brother, who had continued the elder Nicolai's business, he found it necessary to resume the life of a bookseller. He did not, however, abandon his literary labours. In association with his friend Moses Mendelssohn he had established, in 1757, the periodical called Bibliotheh der sch5nen Wissenschaften, and this he conducted until 1760. From 1761 to 1766 he contributed to the Briefe, die neueste Literatur betrefend ; but it was Lessing's work that made this series famous. For many years (from 1765 to 1791) Nicolai edited the Allgenteine deutsche Bibliothek, a periodical which served as the organ of the so-called popular philosophers, who warred against authority in religion and against what they conceived to be extravagance in literature. The new movement of ideas represented by Herder, Goethe, Schiller, Kant, and Fichte he was incapable of understanding, and he made himself ridiculous by foolish misrepresentation of their aims. Of Nicolai's independent writings, perhaps the only one of permanent value is his Anekdoten von Friedrich, II. His romances are forgotten, although Leben wed Meinungen des Ilerrn Magisters Sebaldus 11Tothanker had a certain reputation in its day. His Beschreibung einer Reise Arch Deutschland und the Schweiz was attacked by many writers, and it proved that in middle life he had become in a new way not less bigoted than the authors whose bigotry he had spent much of his time in exposing. Nicolai died on the 8th of January 1811. He wrote an Autobiography, which was published in 1806. See Nicolai's Leben und literarischer .11Tachlass, by Gockingk (1820).