Abbt, Thomas

, a German writer of high character, was born Nov. 25, 1738, at Ulm, where he received his education, and in 1751 produced his first dissertation, under the title of “Historia vitae magistra,” in which he | maintained two theses, the one on burning mirrors, the other on the miracle of the dial of Ahaz. In 1756, he went to the university of Halle, where he was invited by professor Baumgarten to live in his house. Here he published a thesis “De Extasi,” and studied chiefly philosophy and the mathematics; and from 1758, when he received the degree of M. A. he confined himself to these, giving up divinity, to which he had been originally destined. In 1760, he was appointed professor-extraordinary of philosophy in the university of Francfort-on-the-Oder, and in the midst of the war which then raged, inspirited his fellow-­citizens by a work on “Dying for our Country.” In the following year, he passed six months at Berlin, and left that city to fill the mathematical chair in the university of Rinteln, in Westphalia; but, becoming tired of an academical life, began to study law, as an introduction to some civil employment. In 1763, he travelled through the south of Germany, Switzerland, and part of France; and, on his return to Rinteln, at the end of that year, published his work “On Merit,” which was re-printed thrice in that place, and obtained him much reputation. In 1765, the reigning prince of Schaumburg Lippe bestowed on him the office of counsellor of the court, regency, and consistory of Buckeburgh; but he did not long enjoy the friendship of this nobleman, or his promotion, as he died Nov. 27, 1766, when only in his twenty-eighth year. The prince caused him to be interred, with great pomp, in his private chapel, and honoured his tomb by an affecting epitaph from his own pen. Abbt was highly esteemed by his contemporaries, who seem agreed that, if his life had been spared, he would have ranked among the first German writers. He contributed much to restore the purity of the language, which had become debased before his time, as the Germans, discouraged by the disastrous thirty years war, had written very little, unless in French or Latin.

Besides what we have mentioned, Abbt wrote a great number of works in German or Latin. His first publications were theological: in 1757, he wrote on “the Burial of Moses,Halle, 4to, which, contrary to the usual opinion, he contended was performed by men. In 1758, he published a thesis, to prove that the “Confusion of Tongues at Babel was not a punishment,Halle, 4to; and another on the “Search of Truth,Halle, 1759, 4to. These appear to have been the efforts of a young author | eadeavouring to establish a reputation on paradox. After he had begun to study philosophy, he published a thesis on the proper manner of studying that science, Halle, 1760, His “Treatise on the influence of the Beautiful on Science,” Rinteln, 1762, 4to, was intended as an introduction to his lectures on the belles-lettres. He next published a “Programma on the difficulty of measuring the Human Faculties,” Rinteln, 1763, 4to; and a “Consolatory Epistle to Dr. Schwartz,1763, 8vo. His work entitled “Recherches sur les Sentiments Moraux, traduites de l’Allemand de M. Moses Mendelsohn,1763, 12mo, was the only book he wrote in French. He wrote also a “Life of his old friend professor Baumgarten,1765, Halle, 4to, which was re-printed in the Rinteln Literary Journal. An anonymous work, which has the date of Hamburgh 1766, 8vo, but was really printed at Berlin, the subject, the “folly of persecution among Protestants,” is ascribed to him. “Reflections on a plan of Study for young men of rank,” was written by him in 1759, but not printed till after his death, in 1767; and reprinted at Berlin 1780. He had begun an universal history, a fragment of which was published by Miller, at Halle, 1767, 8vo. After his death, the count de la Lippe published a translation of the Catiline conspiracy from Sallust, written by Abbt, and esteemed one of his best productions, Stadthagen, 1767, &vo; but it must not be confounded with a translation of the same author published at Lemgow, 1772, under his name. His reputation was such, that there have appeared two surreptitious editions of his works, at Reutlingen in 1782, and at Frankfort in 1783; but the genuine edition is that of Nicolai, 6 vols. Stetin and Berlin, in 1768, 1781, and 1790, which contains many pieces not before printed. His correspondence with Blum, Gause, Gleim, Klotz, Moses Mendelsohn, Nicolai, and others, contained in this edition, was reprinted by itself at Berlin and Stetin in 1782, 8vo. Besides these, there are several papers, on various subjects, written by Abbt, in the German literary journals, particularly that conducted by Less’ing and Moses Mendelsohn. Abbt’s life was written by Frederic Nicolai, and published at Berlin 1767, 4to. 1


Biographic Universelle, 1811.