Having studied jurisprudence at the University of Vienna, he entered the government service in a legal capacity, and after holding various minor offices was transferred in 1843 to a responsible post on the Lottery Commission. He had already embarked upon politics, and severely criticized the government in a pamphlet, Pie Desideria eines österreichischen Schriftstellers (1842); and in 1845 he made a journey to England, after which his political opinions became more pronounced. After the Revolution, in 1848, he quit the government service in order to devote himself entirely to letters. He lived in Vienna until his death, and was ennobled for his work.
As a writer of comedies and farces, Bauernfeld takes high rank among the German playwrights of the century; his plots are clever, the situations witty and natural and the diction elegant. His earliest essays, the comedies Leichtsinn aus Liebe (1831); Des Liebes-Protokoll (1831) and Die ewige Liebe (1834); Burgerlich und Romantisch, (1835) enjoyed great popularity. Later he turned his attention to so-called Salonstücke (drawing-room pieces), notably Aus der Gesellschaft (1866); Moderne Jugend (1869), and Der Landfrieden (1869), in which he portrays in fresh, bright and happy sallies the social conditions of the capital in which he lived.
A complete edition of Bauernfeld's works, Gesammelte Schriften, appeared in 12 vols. (Vienna, 1871-1873); Dramatischer Nachlass, ed. by F. von Saar (1893); selected works, ed. by E. Homer (4 vols., 1905). See A. Stern, Bauernfeld, Ein Dichterporträt (1890), Rudolf von Gottschall, "E. von Bauernfeld" (in Unsere Zeit, 1890), and E. Homer, Bauernfeld (1900).
He also used the pseudonyms "Rusticocampus" or "Feld".