This biography was originally published in A New General Biographical Dictionary. Hugh James Rose. London, 1857. p. 17.
JOHN CHRISTIAN BRANDES, a German actor and dramatist, was born at Stettin, in 1735. Abandoned in early life by his father, and compelled by the destitute condition of his mother to seek for subsistence, he led a wandering life in Germany, Prussia, and Poland, during which time he suffered the severest privations. After a series of strange adventures, in which he was sometimes successful, but more frequently unfortunate, he joined a company of strolling players, for whose profession he had formed a strong inclination. The dramatic art was at that time in its infancy in Germany; but a taste for theatrical entertainments was beginning to be rapidly diffused, and Brandes was led to try his fortune in this new occupation. His first attempt was a failure. His employer was compelled to dismiss his company; and Brandes was once more thrown penniless upon the world. His struggles were for some time incessant and diversified. At length Gotthold Lessing discovered his capacity, and befriended him. He again attempted the stage, with enlarged experience and better success. His marriage with Charlotte Koch obtained for him an introduction to Ramler, Engel, and Mendelsohn. The loss of his wife and daughter, both of them accomplished performers, affected him so deeply, that he retired from the stage, and soon after, at Berlin, in 1799, he closed a life as much chequered by good and adverse fortune, as the annals of a profession proverbially unstable can exhibit. His dramatic writings, published at Leipsic, in 1790, in 8 vols, have little to recommend them; but in his autobiography, of which there is a French translation, many interesting anecdotes are agreeably related.
Browse 18th Century Theatre Database