Stolberg, Friedrich Leopold Von, Count
Stolberg, Friedrich Leopold Von, Count, a poet and statesman in North Germany at the close of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century is entitled to a place here because of the notoriety he acquired through his perversion to Romanism. He was born at Bramstedt in Holstein, Nov. 7, 1750, of parents belonging to very ancient families. A sense of his high birth clung to him while he lived; and if to this trait we add a very tender, emotional, and impressible disposition, and, during a portion of his life at least, an enthusiastic ardor for liberty, we shall have stated the qualities by which his career was determined. At Göttingen, whither he went in 1772 after a period spent at Halle, he became a member of an association of students whose bond was the new spirit of liberty --with, its ideas and hopes at that time taking possession of men's minds-- and whose aim was the cultivation of poetry. In this circle he read an ode on liberty which astonished his hearers by its enthusiasm. In 1775 he traveled to Switzerland, meeting with and accompanied by Goethe on the way, and at Zurich associating with Lavater. In 1777 he became ambassador to Copenhagen for the prince-bishop of Lübeck, and established himself at the castle of Eutin, in Holstein, where Voss the friend of his student days at Göttingen, had been settled as rector. He published a version of the Iliad in the meter of the original (1778), portions of Aeschylus, a number of dramas with choruses and some satirical "iambics." In 1782 he married Agnes von Witzleben, and in 1786 accepted a transfer to Neuenburg, in the duchy of Oldenburg, as magistrate. We next find him, after the death of his wife in 1788, at Berlin in the capacity of ambassador for Denmark. He continued to employ his attention with the study of the ancient classics, but religious questions began at this time to occupy a prominent place in his thoughts. His views were thoroughly orthodox according to the standard of the Lutheran Church, and his poetic temperament inclined him towards mysticism; his heart earned for communion with" God; and he was pained to find persons who ventured to believe that they could prosper without God. He protested against a reconstruction of the hymnology of the German Church in the interests of the then current rationalistic "enlightenment," and prayed that the minds employed upon such work might fare as did king Saul, "who came to disturb the prophets; and ended with; prophesying himself." In 1790 he consummated am second marriage (with Sophia, countess von Redern), and soon afterwards undertook a trip to Italy, which led him to Munster and exposed him to the influences that determined him, to go over to the Church of Rome. He found at Münster a type of Catholicism in which the Christian element was prominent and the Romish element not unpleasantly noticeable. Princess Gallitzin was its leading representative, and became the principal agent in persuading, him to make the desired transfer. The journey was continued to Rome, where he was profoundly stirred while witnessing the celebration of the mass by pope Pius VI, and filled with admiration for the pontiff on being admitted to an audience. He met the brothers Droste, who had been recommended to him by the princess Gallitzin, and who advanced his progress towards the Romish Church very materially, though the public avowal of his renunciation of Protestantism was delayed some years. He returned to Eutin, and entered on the performance of his duties as president of the government in the spring of 1793. The Minister coterie were from this period in regular communication with him, while his Protestant friends of former days were gradually alienated. In 1798 he notified the government that he intended to resign his offices, and in the same year he visited the Moravian community, to find, if he could, among them the peace and rest for which his soul longed; but he at the same time submitted the doubts which agitated his mind to Asseline, the exiled bishop of Boulogne, and received a reply in consonance with his desires. The, transition to the Church of Rome was made on June 1, 1800, in the private chapel of princess Gallitzin. The reasons which determined Stolberg's action may be reduced to three:
1. A bald, cold, unsatisfying rationalism was in control of the evangelical churches. The formal principle of Protestantism, submission to the Bible, was loudly proclaimed, but the demands of reason allowed very few scriptural truths to stand. So emotional a nature as Stolberg's could never rest content with such a state of affairs.
2. Stolberg lacked the keen intellect and resolute will which might have fitted him to find and apply the remedy for the evils which he saw, as his high station would have enabled him to do. He was simply a man of feeling, and, in addition, a weakling who could endure no controversy, though it might assume no greater proportions than an adverse discussion of his accepted ideas.
3. He saw Romanism under a most captivating disguise. The Minster Catholics drew their inspiration from the Bible and the Christian mystics, and made the person of Christ the center of their religious life. On Sept. 28, 1800, Stolberg, having resigned his official position, removed from Eutin to Minister and renewed his literary activity, giving some attention to the classics, but devoting himself more especially to religious work. In 1803 he published Augustine's De Vera Religione and De Moribus Eccl. Catholicoe in German, and also composed the inscription which was placed on the stone over the grave of Klopstock (q.v.), who had been the friend of his youth. Stimulated by C. A. Droste (q.v.), he began a Geschichte der Religion Jesu Christi, of which fourteen volumes appeared between 1806 and 1818. His patriotism in these later days was as evident as it had been in his youth. The freedom of his expressions led to his being placed under surveillance by the French invaders in 1812; and when the German rising took place in 1813 he gave four sons to the army, and composed a number of patriotic hymns. But his day was almost over. The labor required for his history was exhausting him. He turned his attention wholly upon the Scriptures, and wrote two edifying volumes entitled Betrachtungen u. Beherzigungen der heil. Schrift, a life of Vincent de Paul, and a work styled Buchlein der Liebe, with which he closed his life. He died Dec. 5, 1819, calling with his dying breath on the "Mother of God," and placing confidence in the intercession of saints, but, after all, drinking in comfort and strength from the solid promises of the Scriptures. This, indeed, was the peculiarity of Stolberg's Catholicism, that it was in the main, not Romish, but scriptural. His last words were, "Blessed be Jesus Christ." See Nicolov, F.L. Graf zu Stolberg (Mayence, 1846); Von Bippen, Eutiner Skizzen, etc. (Weimar, 1859); Goethe, Wahrheit und Dichtung, 18; Voss, in Paulus's Sophronizen, Wie ward Fr. Stolberg ein Unfreier? (Frankf.-on- the-Main, 1819); Stolberg, Kurze Abfertigung, etc. (Hamb. 1820 ); Katerkamp, Leben der Fürstin Amalie v. Gallitzin (2d ed. Munster, 1839).; Schott, Voss u. Stolberg, etc. (Stuttgart, 1850); Gesammelte Werke der Brüder Stolberg (Hamb. 1825 sq., 20 vols.).