He was born in Wetzikon. He studied law at Zürich and Basel before moving to Munich in 1857, where he joined the poets' society, Die Krokodile. His extremely critical manner is said to have alienated Paul Heyse. From 1860 he worked as an editor at the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and travelled around Germany for the next few years. In 1862 he published, with Emanuel Geibel, Fünf Bücher französischer Lyrik, a substantial set of volumes containing translations from the French; and in 1868 he wrote an epic, Penthesilea.
In July 1877 he entered the Burghölzli asylum, supposedly after being rejected as a suitor by the granddaughter of Wilhelm von Humboldt, and he died there two years later, shortly after seeing the publication of Gedichte (1879), a volume of original poetry.
Thirty-two of his poems were set in 1944 by Othmar Schoeck as Spielmannsweisen, op. 56, and Der Sänger, op. 57.
- John George Robertson, Edna Purdie. A history of German literature, Part 1. British Book Centre, 1966. Page 490.
- Jethro Bithell. An Anthropology of German Poetry, 1830-1880. Rinehart and Co, New York. Page lxxxviii.
- Biographical note in: Alexander Tille, ed. German Songs of Today. Macmillan, London, 1896.