C H R O N I C L E
Ernst Ortlepp was born on 1st August 1800 at Droyßig (near Zeitz) as the son of a Lutheran pastor.
In 1806 the family moved to Schkölen. There his father took over the position of main pastor, which was connected with the title of a provost.
From 1812–1819 Ortlepp attended the State School at Schulpforta, where he was also filling the position of the organist. He graduated „with the most excellent grades“.
From 1819–1824 he studied theology and philosophy in Leipzig. There he became acquainted and socialized with well-known professors, contacts which he held on to for the next decade; here we will only mention the then very well known philosopher Wilhelm Traugott Krug and the philologist Johann Gottfried Jakob Hermann. There are reasons to believe that he was also acquainted with the German poet Christian Dietrich Grabbe, but this acquaintance can not be proven. Ortlepp also had many a lyrical or novelistic attempt of his published and left the university without having completed a degree.
From 1825–1830 Ortlepp lived a private life in the remote Schkölen with his then still living father, reading the works of many old and newer writers and trying his writer's hands particularly at dramas. To this period, obviously, also belongs his travel report „Belustigungen und Reisen eines Todten“, which describes his journey to the Rhine and Main rivers.
In 1828 conversation with Goethe at Dornburg, on the value and possibilities of poetry. Almost a decade earlier, Goethe had been presented with Ortlepp's translation into ancient Greek of his drama „Iphigenie“. A further meeting with Goethe can not be ascertained.
1830–1836: Return to Leipzig. Ortlepp was ‒ according to his own statement ‒ „the first who would break a new path for political poetry“. Particularly the great poems, held in Schiller's style, that probed into biblical and church festivals as to their possible connection to current strivings ‒ such as the July Revolution in France, constitutional struggles in Saxony, uprisings in Poland ‒ secured Ortlepp the continuing and intense attention of Saxony's and Prussia's cencorship, but also the censorship of other German states. In 1835 Metternich personally saw to the pursuit of Ortlepp's great poem „Fieschi“, which led to its prohibition.
In Leipzig Ortlepp worked for various periodicals, among them „Der Komet“ and the „Zeitung für die elegante Welt“, which were most important to the poet. Here Ortlepp also wrote reviews of operas and concerts. Among his acquaintances of those days were Carl Herloß son, Heinrich Laube, Ferdinand Stolle and Richard Wagner.
In 1836, when Ortlepp was supposed to be extradicted from Leipzig, there were attempts by some professors at sparing him this fate by acquiring for him a teaching position at the university. These attempts were not successful. In November 1836 the poet had to leave Leipzig.
1837–1853: During these years, Ortlepp lived in Württemberg, particularly in Stuttgart. About his life there and about his acquaintances, almost nothing is known. We know that Herwegh attacked him in a review and that he corresponded with Dingelstedt. That he took an a lively interest in the intellectual striving of his time, we learn from poems that were directed against the attempts of the Catholic Church to regain its positions and rights that it had lost during Enlightenment, etc. (as by means of the presentation of the Holy Coat at Trier in 1844). The poet welcomed attempts of independent Catholics to set themselves apart from rome (Johannes Ronge and the „Deutschkatholiken“)
The events of the year 1848 revived in Ortlepp some of his old hopes. With his cyclic poem „Germania“ that he published in Frankfurt in this year, he wanted to give the German people the national poem, that they were, in his opinion, still lacking. Ortlepp was probably the only known German poets who would address Archduke Johann in a poem in heightened language, without irony. The book also presented texts for a political liturgy of a German state, which one would have to imagine as an all-encompassing German (including all German-speaking states, also Austria) constitutional monarchy. To this belongs the text of a national anthem.
Obviously in those years Ortlepp made a living with his extensive activities as a translator and editor. Here we shall only mentione a few of his works that had a long-term effect, such as a biography of Byron, his translation of all of Byron's poems, an edition of the works of Rabener that is still in use today.
In 1853 Ortlepp was extradicted from Württemberg due to his poverty.
1853–1864: He returned to his homeland. As places of residence, without secure data, Schkölen, Camburg and, above all, Naumburg are named.
In 1856 Ortlepp tried to embark on a new career by taking the philologist's exam in Halle; it was the prerequisite for obtaining a teaching position at high schools. While preparing for this exam, he stayed with his brother at Zahna. However, we was not able to obtain a position in this field.
For the years 1858–1861, measures by the justice system against him, on account of his unstable life style and certain transgressions ‒ perhaps under the influence of alcohol ‒ have been noted; his incarcerations included two longer stays at the correctional facilities at Zeitz.
During these years Ortlepp's poetic production did not let up. In spite of his unsettled life circumstances, he was able to publish two different poetry anthologies; of apparently many single printed sheets, only a few have been found, thus far. More than forty occasional poems for feast and memorial days were published by Ortlepp in the „Naumburger Kreisblatt“, during these years; the last of these poems was published only a few weeks before his death. Moreover, the poet also wrote occasional poems for private commissions.
During his last years he was particularly close to Schulpforta, among whose teachers and students he found friends. To the latter belonged Friedrich Nietzsche, who graduated from Schulpforta in 1864 and who, in a letter, commented on Ortlepp's death. The text shows interest in and sympathy for the dead poet.
On 14 June 1864 Ernst Ortlepp was found dead near the boundaries of Schulpforta. The cause and circustances of his death could never be clarified. On 16 June 1864 he was buried at Schulpforta.