Friedrich Wilhelm von Willmann



Friedrich Wilhelm von Willmann (13. / 2. VI 1746 – 1. II / 20. I 1819) was a Baltic-German clergyman and literary figure, influenced by the Enlightenment, known for his book of prose Juttud ja teggud ('Stories and Acts', 1782).

Willmann was born on the Dižgramzda (Gross-Gramsden) estate in Courland. His father was a German architect working for the tzarist government, his mother hailed from Sweden. The following year the family moved to Riga, where Willmann grew up. He studied theology at the universities of Göttingen (1766-1768) and Königsberg (1768-1769). In Königsberg Willmann attended lectures by Immanuel Kant; one of his classmates was J.M.R. Lenz. After finishing his studies he worked as a tutor for some time. From 1772 to 1802 he was the assistant pastor and pastor of Karja church on Saaremaa, after which he gave up clerical activity. For his literary work, in 1790 he was awarded a noble title by Emperor Joseph II of Austria. From 1805 to 1810 he lived at Kuressaare. He died at Karja and is buried in the churchyard there.

Willmann’s Juttud ja teggud is regarded as the first preserved secular book of prose in Estonian. Johann Martin Hehn’s slightly earlier work in South Estonian, Jutto Nink Moistu Könne ('Stories and Parables', Tartu 1778) is not known to have survived in any copy. The first known piece of secular Estonian prose is also in South Estonian, and appeared in Adrian Virginius’ 'Handbook in the Tartu Language' (Tarto-Ma Kele Kässi-Ramat, 1690-1691).

Willmann’s Juttud ja teggud is to a large extent a translation of the work Jaukas Pasakkas un Stahsti ('Pleasant Parables and Stories', 1766) by the founder of Latvian secular literature Gotthard Friedrich Stender. Stender in turn used highly diverse authors and works as the sources of his tales – Aesop, Petronius, Martin Luther, Voltaire, chivalric romances, possibly even the Decameron and the '1001 Nights' and many more. The tales were followed by practical and didactic lessons for peasants. For his part, Willmann added proverbs and riddles taken from Anton Thor Helle’s grammar.

Willmann championed the Saaremaa dialect, which he used in writing Juttud ja teggud. For the third and fourth editions of the work the title became Juttud ja Moistatussed ('Stories and Riddles'), and they were heavily edited. Willman’s Saaremaa dialect was altered against Willmann’s wishes into that of Tallinn, and some of the stories were replaced with new ones; the words of instruction following the stories were also changed, as a result of which the tone of the whole book was more Pietistic than the first edition. The editor is not named in the newer editions; according to the literary historian Aarne Vinkel it was Otto Reinhold von Holtz. For a long period Willmann’s book was known by its third and fourth editions; only in 1953 did the literary scholar Otto Webermann find a first edition in the Göttingen university library.
Although linguistically Juttud ja teggud has been deemed inferior to other works by contemporary German Enlightenment literary figures, this book proved very popular among the people. Proof of this are the numerous reprints, and the fact that a third of the Juttud ja Teggud became folklore. Among other things, it was Willmann’s book which popularized the word seltsimees ('comrade') in the Estonian language.

Willmann also wrote a spiritual work, Ellamisse-Juhhataja ('Guide to Living', 1793). Of his written works in German, the best known is a handbook to beekeeping, Anleitung zur Bienenzucht für Lief-, Ehst- und Curland ('Handbook of Beekeeping for Livonia, Estonia and Courland', Mitau/Jelgava 1787).

S. V. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Juttud ja teggud, kui ka Monningad Öppetused mis majapiddamisse pärrast tarwis lähtwad. Eestima-rahwale heaks on üllespannud, Reedik Willem Willmann, Öppetaia Karja Kirriko peale, Saaremaale = Fabeln Erzählungen zur Verbeszerung des Wizzes und Sitten der Ehsten, nebst einem Anhang von oeconomischen Regeln .... Tallinn: 1782, 12+227 lk. [Kättesaadav: Järgnevad väljaanded: 1787, 1804 ('Juttud ja Moistatussed kui ka monned öppetussed maja piddamisse pärrast...'), 1838 ('Juttud ja Moistatussed ning ka monned öppetussed maia piddamisse-pärrast...'), 1975 (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1975 (Rooma: Maarjamaa).]
Ellamisse-Juhhataja. Ma rahwale heaks üllespantud Sest Öppetaiast Fr. Wilh. von Willmann = Christliches Sitten-Büchlein, als Lesebuch in den Schulen, dem Ehstnischen Landvolke gewidmet .... Tallinn: 1793, 100 lk. [2. trükk: 1804.]