Friedrich Nicolai was a talented German writer, of great importance for
the development of German literature. He’s famous for his defense of
John Milton against Gottsched and other opponents. He wrote some
romance novels like “The life and opinions of the Magister Sebaldus
Nothanker”, which was reputed among his contemporaries, and some
satires, like “The joys of Young Werther”, alluding to Goethe’s Werther,
which was also well received by the critics. Another of Nicolai’s works
that is worth reading and also has historical value is his “Anekdoten von
His early life
Born in 1733 in Berlin, Nicolai was well educated in his hometown before
moving to Frankfurt (Oder) in 1749 in order to follow his father’s trade.
However, he found time to read and English literature and to develop his
writing skills. Once back in Berlin, he published a series of writings in
defense of John Milton and this passion for the writer and for English
literature earned him the appreciation of M. Mendelssohn and Gotthold E.
Lessing, with whom he became friends.
Nicolai established and conducted a journal until 1970 and, along with
Lessing and Mendelssohn, he edited two other famous journals: “The
Universal German Library” and the “Letters concerning to the most
recent literature.” This was an elemental tool that served the purpose of
giving popular philosophers the opportunity to fight against extravagant
literature and religious authority. After a life dedicated to the literary
cause and years of work as a bookseller, Nicolai died in 1811 in the city
where he was born: Berlin.