Lenz was a Baltic German writer of the Sturm und Drang movement. He gave up university study to travel to Germany, where he became a disciple of Goethe. Lenz lived in Strasbourg, then at the Weimar court, where he somehow incurred Goethe's displeasure. After a mental breakdown in Switzerland, Lenz returned to his family in Riga. He spent his last years in Moscow. His life furnished materials for Georg Büchner's novella Lenz, a chamber opera by Wolfgang Rihm, and several more recent literary works.