Hofmannsthal, Hugo von (1874–1929) By George, Alys
Hugo von Hofmannsthal was a leading Austrian writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His prolific works span a wide range of genres, from lyric poetry, verse drama, and narrative prose to dramatic tragedy, comedy, opera libretti, and essays. An early member of the Young Vienna literary circle and a precocious poet, Hofmannsthal was later chiefly known for his dramatic works and conservative, yet cosmopolitan views regarding Austrian culture, all of which converged in his co-founding of the Salzburg Festival.
Born into an ennobled, well-situated Viennese banking family, Hofmannsthal was a Wunderkind, successfully publishing his first poem as a sixteen-year-old in 1890 under the pseudonym Loris Melikow. He immediately became a core member of Young Vienna, and his poetry found a wide readership. Throughout his law studies at the University of Vienna from 1892 to 1894 and a year of voluntary military service (1894–1895), he never ceased writing. In 1899 Hofmannsthal completed a doctorate in Romance philology in Vienna and worked toward his Habilitation, but eventually discarded his academic career aspirations in favor of writing. In 1901 he married Gertrud Schlesinger, with whom he had three children, and moved to Rodaun, then a suburb of Vienna, where he lived until his death.