Jean Paul was born at Wunsiedel, in the Fichtelgebirge mountains (Bavaria). His father was an organist at Wunsiedel. In 1765 he became a pastor at Joditz near Hof, and in 1767 at Schwarzenbach, but he died on 25 April 1779, leaving the family in great poverty. After attending the Gymnasium at Hof, Jean Paul went in 1781 to the University of Leipzig. His original intention was to enter his fathers profession, but theology did not interest him, and he soon devoted himself wholly to the study of literature.
Unable to maintain himself at Leipzig he returned in 1784 to Hof, where he lived with his mother. From 1787 to 1789 he served as a tutor at Töpen, a village near Hof- and from 1790 to 1794 he taught the children of several families in a school he had founded in nearby Schwarzenbach.Jean Paul began his career as a man of letters with Grönländische Prozesse (Greenland Lawsuits, published anonymously in Berlin) and Auswahl aus des Teufels Papieren (Selections from the Devils Papers, signed J.
P. F. Hasus), the former of which was issued in 1783-84, the latter in 1789. These works were not received with much favour, and in later life Richter himself had little sympathy for their satirical tone. A spiritual crisis he suffered on 15 November 1790, in which he had a vision of his own death, altered his outlook profoundly. His next book, Die unsichtbare Loge (The Invisible Lodge), a romance published in 1793 under the pen-name Jean Paul (in honour of Jean Jacques Rousseau), had all the qualities that were soon to make him famous, and its power was immediately recognized by some of the best critics of the day.Encouraged by the reception of Die unsichtbare Loge, Richter composed a number of books in rapid succession: Hesperus (1795), Biographische Belustigungen unter der Gehirnschale einer Riesin (1796), Leben des Quintus Fixlein (1796), Der Jubelsenior (1797), and Das Kampaner Tal (1797).
Also among these was the novel Blumen- Frucht- und Dornenstücke, oder Ehestand, Tod und Hochzeit des Armenadvokaten Siebenkäs in 1796-97. The books slightly supernatural theme, involving a Doppelgänger and pseudocide, stirred some controversy over its interpretation of the Resurrection, but these criticisms served only to draw awareness to the author. This series of writings assured Richter a place in German literature, and during the rest of his life every work he produced was welcomed by a wide circle of admirers.After his mothers death in 1797, Richter went to Leipzig, and in the following year to Weimar, where he started work on his most ambitious novel, Titan, published between 1801-02.
Richter became friends with such Weimar notables as Herder, by whom he was warmly appreciated, but despite their close proximity, Richter never become close to Goethe and Schiller, both of whom found his literary methods repugnant- but in Weimar, as elsewhere, his remarkable conversational powers and his genial manners made him a favorite in general society.
In 1801 he married Caroline Meyer, whom he had met in Berlin the year before. They lived first at Meiningen, then at Coburg- and finally, in 1804, they settled at Bayreuth.Here Richter spent a quiet, simple and happy life, constantly occupied with his work as a writer.
In 1808 he was fortunately delivered from anxiety about outward necessities by Prince Primate Karl Theodor von Dalberg, who gave him a pension. Titan was followed by Flegeljahre (1804-5), two works which he himself regarded as his masterpieces.
His later imaginative works were Dr Katzenbergers Badereise (1809), Des Feldpredigers Schmelzle Reise nach Flätz (1809), Leben Fibels (1812), and Der Komet, oder Nikolaus Marggraf (1820-22). In Vorschule der Aesthetik (1804) he expounded his ideas on art- he discussed the principles of education in Levana, oder Erziehungslehre (1807)- and the opinions suggested by current events he set forth in Friedenspredigt (1808), Dämmerungen für Deutschland (1809), Mars und Phöbus Thronwec