He was born on the 8th of June 1810 in Zwickau in Saxony. His father was a
publisher, and it was in the cultivation of literature quite as much as in
that of music that his boyhood was spent. He himself tells us that he began
to compose before his seventh year.
At fourteen he wrote an essay on the aesthetics of music and also
contributed to a volume edited by his father and entitled Portraits of
Famous Men. While still at school in Zwickau he read, besides Schiller
and Goethe, Byron (whose Beppo and Childe Harold had been
translated by his father) and the Greek tragedians. But the most powerful as
well as the most permanent of the literary influences exercised upon him,
however, was undoubtedly that of Jean Paul Richter. This influence may
clearly be seen in his youthful novels Juniusabende and Selene,
of which the first only was completed (1826).
In 1828 he left school, and after a tour, during which he met Heine at
Munich, he went to Leipzig to study law. His interest in music had been
stimulated when he was a child by hearing Moscheles play at Carlsbad, and in
1827 his enthusiasm had been further excited by the works of Franz Schubert
and Felix Mendelssohn. But his father, who had encouraged the boy's musical
aspirations, had died in 1826, and neither his mother nor his guardian
approved of a musical career for him.
The question seemed to be set at rest by Schumann's expressed intention
to study law, but both at Leipzig and at Heidelberg, whither he went in
1829, he neglected the law for the philosophers, and though—to use his own
words—"but Nature's pupil pure and simple" began composing songs.