The name was taken, according to family records, from an ancestral estate. He was born on his father's estate at Oberwiederstedt in Prussian Saxony. His parents were members of the Moravian (Herrnhuter) sect, and the strict religious training of his youth is largely reflected in his literary works.
From the gymnasium of Eisleben he passed, in 1790, as a student of philosophy, to the University of Jena, where he was befriended by Friedrich Schiller. He next studied law at Leipzig, when he formed a friendship with Friedrich Schlegel, and finally at Wittenberg, where, in 1794, he took his degree. His father's cousin, the Prussian minister Hardenberg, offered him a government post at Berlin; but the father feared the influence upon his son of the loose-living statesman, and sent him to learn the practical duties of his profession under the Kreisamtmann (district administrator) of Tennstedt near Langensalza. In the following year he was appointed auditor to the government saltworks in Weißenfels, of which his father was director. His grief at the death in 1797 of Sophie von Kühn, to whom he had become betrothed in Tennstedt, found expression in the beautiful Hymne an die Nacht (first published in the Athenäum, 1800). The poet's love affair with the young woman was recently fictionalized in the 1995 novel "The Blue Flower" by Penelope Fitzgerald. A few months later he entered the Mining Academy of Freiberg in Saxony to study geology under Professor Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750-1817), whom he immortalized as the "Meister" in the fragment Die Lehrlinge zu Sais. Here he again became engaged to be married, and the next two years were fruitful in poetical productions. In the autumn of 1799 he read at Jena to the admiring circle of young romantic poets his Geistliche Lieder. Several of these, such as "Wenn alle untreu werden", "Wenn ich ihn nur habe", "Unter tausend frohen Stunden", still retain, as church hymns, great popularity.
In 1800 he was an appointed Amtshauptmann (local magistrate) in Thuringia, and was preparing to marry and settle, when pulmonary consumption rapidly set in, of which he died at Weißenfels.
His works were issued in two volumes by his friends Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel (2 vols. 1802; a third volume was added in 1846). They are for the most part fragments, of which Heinrich von Ofterdingen, an unfinished romance, is the chief. It was undertaken at the instance of Tieck, and reflects the Ideas and tendencies of the older Romantic School, of which Hardenberg was a leading member. Heinrich von Ofterdingen's search for the mysterious "blue flower" is an allegory of the Poet's life set in a romantic medieval world. Novalis, however, did not succeed in blending his mystic and philosophical conceptions into a harmonious whole. The fragments contain idealistic though paradoxical views on philosophy, art, natural science, mathematics, &c.
There are editions of his collected works by C. Meisner and B. Wiile(???) (1898), by E. Heilborn (3 vols., 1901), and by J. Minor (3 vols., 1907). Heinrich von Ofterdingen was published separately by J. Schmidt in 1876. Novalis's Correspondence was edited by J. M. iaich(???) in 1880. See R. Haym, Die romantische Schule (Berlin, 1870); A. Schubart, Novalis' Leben, Dichten und Denken (1887); C. Busse, Novalis' Lyrik (1898); J. Bing, Friedrich von Hardenberg (Hamburg, 1899), E. Heilborn, Friedrich von Hardenberg (Berlin, 1901). Carlyle's (???) essay on Novalis (1829) is well known.
See also: German literature
This entry is based on an article from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.