Heine, Heinrich (Vol. 54)
Heinrich Heine 1797-1856
(Born Harry Heine) German poet, essayist, critic, journalist, editor, dramatist, novella and travel writer.
For additional information about Heine's life and career, see .
Heine is one of the outstanding literary figures of nineteenth-century Europe. He is best known for his Buch der Lieder (1827; Heinrich Heine 's Book of Songs), a collection of love lyrics which were, in time, set to music by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, and other composers. He was the first major poet of his era to adopt a humorous, ironic tone, which pervades his poetry, prose, and commentaries on politics, art, literature, and society.
Heine was born in Düsseldorf into a Jewish household, the poor relations of a larger, wealthy family. His early years were greatly influenced by his uncle, Salomon Heine, a successful and influential banker who financed Heine's university education. In 1819, Heine was sent to study law at the University of Bonn, where he showed a growing interest in literature and history and studied under the famous critic August Wilhelm Schlegel, who introduced him to the ideas of the German Romantic school. He completed his studies at the University of Göttingen and received his law degree in 1825. In that same year he changed his name from Harry to Heinrich and converted to Protestantism, a practical measure necessary for any career because of anti-Semitic laws in nineteenth-century Germany. In 1831 Heine emigrated to Paris, where he remained in self-imposed exile for most of his life. From the mid-1830s through the rest of his life, he suffered with increasing illness from venereal disease, and in the spring of 1848 he became completely paralyzed and partially blind. Confined to what he called his "mattress-grave," Heine lived in constant pain, yet was intellectually alert until his death in 1856.
Heine began his literary career while still a student. His first book of poetry, Gedichte (1822; Poems), was considered promising, though his next published work, Tragödien nebst einem lyrischen Intermezzo (1823), which contained his only attempts at drama, was considered unimportant and was largely ignored. Heine had far more success with his next work, a fictional account of a walking tour he had taken through the Harz Mountains. This work, Die Harzreise, was the first of a four-volume set titled Reisebilder (1826-31; Pictures of Travel). This work contains sketches of Heine's travels to England, Italy, and Nordenay on the North Sea, but it is also a record of his personal journey and a successful combination of autobiography with descriptions of scenery and social criticism.
With the publication of his next work, Book of Songs, Heine became the most popular German poet of his day. The work established his preeminence as a lyric poet, and has long remained the basis of his international reputation. This early poetry reflects the influence of Romanticism in its emphasis on love and despair, as well as its pervasive tone of reverie. Yet Book of Songs encompasses much more. The book abounds with realism, skepticism, wit, and irony. Heine did not share the positive world view of such German Romantics as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, and he lacked their faith in the ability of modern poetry to overcome the alienation and anxiety of modern life. Book of Songs represents Heine's rejection of the German Romantic tradition and marks the beginning of the post-Romantic movement in German literature.
The compositions that followed his emigration to Paris, unlike his early and late poetry, are primarily concerned with politics, religion, society, art, and philosophy. These include essays that were collected in Französische Zustände (1833; French Affairs: Letters from Paris), Lutezio (1854; Lutetia), and De l'Allemagne (1835; Germany). With these works he hoped to encourage understanding between his adopted nation of France and his homeland, Germany; his efforts were enhanced by his ability to write in both French and German. His presentation of the human side of historical figures and his skillful evocation of the mood of the period give his essays their lasting value. Heine's Heinrich Heine über Ludwig Börne (1840; Ludwig Börne: Recollections of a Revolutionist), a biographical work including criticism and fictional letters, is an attempt by Heine to defend his views against those of Börne, a recently deceased leader of the exiled German radicals in Paris. The biting satire for which Heine had become known also pervades his long political poems, Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen (1844; Germany: A Winter's Tale) and Atta Troll: Ein Sommernachtstraum (1847; Atta Troll). These two poems are a mixture of history and political and literary satire, and defy generic classification. His most powerful and compelling poetry, including that in Romanzero (1851; Romancero) and Letzte Gedichte und Gedanken (1869), dates from late in his career. In these works, Heine frequently returns to the lyrical form of his earliest poetry. They vividly describe a man preparing for death, which he alternately fears and welcomes as a refuge. With their self-mocking, ironic tone, these poems capture the full range of Heine's tenderness and delicacy as well as his pain and terror, and are considered the fullest expression of his poetic genius.
Although Heine was one of the most influential and popular poets of the nineteenth-century, critical response has varied widely over the years. His works have met with both admiration and disapproval in his native land, where his ruthless satires and radical pronouncements made him appear unpatriotic and subversive to his contemporaries. His religion consistently worked against him: he was ostracized as a Jew among Germans, but when he converted to Protestantism, both Jews and Christians assailed him as an opportunist. All of Heine's works were banned in 1835 and he was at one time forbidden to return to Germany. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis tried to erase Heine's name from German history. They destroyed his grave, banned his works, and when they found that they could not eliminate his famous poem "Die Lorelei" from the memory of the German people, they attributed it to an unknown author. Heine's reputation has fared better outside Germany, but while his poetry is widely praised, his ironic and satiric writings have only recently met with critical acclaim. The complexity and variety of his views have often made him an outcast, for those who appreciate the politically militant poet of the 1840s in some cases resent the older, more conservative poet. The only part of Heine's work to be accepted by all critical factions is the Book of Songs.
Gedichte (poetry) 1822
[Poems published in The Poems of Heine, Complete, 1878]
Tragödien nebst einem lyrischen Intermezzo (drama and poetry) 1823
Reisebilder. 4 vols, (travel sketches) 1826-31
[Pictures of Travel, 1855]
Buch der Lieder (poetry) 1827
[Heinrich Heine's Book of Songs, 1856]
Französische Zustände (essays) 1833
[French Affairs: Letters from Paris, 1893]
Zur Geschichte der neuern schönen Literatur in Deutschland (essay) 1833; also published as État actuel de la littérature en Allemagne in journal L 'Europe littéraire, 1833; and Die romantische Schule, 1836
[Letters Auxiliary to the History of Modern Polite Literature in Germany, 1836; also published as The Romantic School, 1882]
Der Salon. 4 vols, (criticism, poetry, unfinished novels, essays, and letters) 1834-40
[The Salon; or, Letters on Art, Music, Popular Life and Politics, 1893]
De l'Allemagne (essays)...
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SOURCE: "Heine's Amusical Muse," in Monatshefte, Vol. 73, No. 4, Winter, 1981, pp. 392-404.
[In the following essay, Kolb evaluates Heine's criticism of music, claiming that the poet was inexperienced and fairly uninterested in music itself, and that he used music, rather, as a touchstone to discuss the feelings it evokes and the creative process.]
Whenever a novelist writes two words about music, one of them is wrong.
In his book on Heine's music criticism, Michael Mann calls the poet a "musical nihilist." The phrase is a felicitous one, for it conveys both Heine's antagonism towards the "most romantic of the arts" and his ignorance of it. There were probably physiological reasons for Heine's malevolence or, at least, indifference towards music: his brother tells us that he was always hypersensitive to noise and found it increasingly painful as his illness progressed, and his secretary reports that he could not tolerate the slightest sound. But Heine's feelings about music and knowledge of the art need not concern the reader of his so-called musical writings; a case study of these texts reveals little if any connection between what Heine claims to be hearing and an actual acoustic impression.
Caroline Jaubert is one of the few contemporaries of Heine's to have realized that he was not...
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SOURCE: "Prologue: A Comet Lights the Diaspora," in Heine's Jewish Comedy: A Study of His Portraits of Jews and Judaism, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1983, pp. 1-43.
[In the following excerpt, Prawer discusses Heine's life, especially his relationship with Eduard Gans, focusing on his changing attitudes toward Judaism.]
Heine's work is full of verbal snapshots, portraits, and caricatures of Jews actual and imagined, historical and contemporary, famous and obscure, single and in groups, ex-Jews, and Jews who remained within the community to which their fathers had belonged. . . . The gallery . . . depicts peddlers, old clothes men, pawnbrokers, corn-cutters, shopkeepers, brokers, speculators of various kinds, bankers, scholars, rabbis, synagogue cantors and beadles, university students, poets, musicians, painters, impresarios, journalists, society hostesses, and Jews in many other walks of life—all seen from the perspective of a nineteenth-century German poet who was born a Jew but who thought it necessary to pay the price of baptism for his entry into the wider cultural community of the West. 'Modern poetry', Heine said in one of his works, echoing Hegel but speaking very much out of his own experience, 'is no longer objective, epic, and naive; it is subjective, lyrical and reflective'. The portraits are therefore coloured by the poet's mood, by his own changing problems and purposes; they are often...
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SOURCE: "Heine and Utopia," in Heine-Jahrbuch, Vol. 27, 1988, pp. 86-112.
[In the following essay, Holub claims that Utopian concerns are not central to Heine's writings, despite claims to the contrary by many contemporary critics of Heine, and that Heine instead expresses a realistic political agenda.]
So pflegen immer große Poeten zu verfahren:
sie begründen zugleich etwas Neues, indem sie das Alte
zerstören; sie negieren nie, ohne etwas zu bejahen.
(Heine: Einleitung zu Don Quixote)
It is almost certain that Heine would have protested against the application of the label, "utopian" to his thought or works. For in his day the word had largely pejorative connotations. No longer associated solely with Thomas More's epoch-making work, "utopia" was nonetheless still clearly identified with models of better states or societies. Even by the middle of the eighteenth century, however, the term seems to have been reserved principally for those models which were logically impossible, fantastic, or completely divorced from reality. Utopias were ideal alternatives that had no possibility of realization in this world; anyone promoting a utopia was either eccentric or mad. This seems to be the way Heine understood the word as well. In his Memoiren, where we find one of the...
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SOURCE: "Poetry for the Republic: Heine and Whitman," in Heinrich Heine and the Occident: Multiple Identities, Multiple Receptions, edited by Peter Uwe Hohendahl and Sander L. Gilman, University of Nebraska Press, 1991, pp. 199-223.
[In the following essay, first presented at a symposium in 1988, Berman compares the poetry and political agendas of Heine and the American poet Walt Whitman.]
It was a tricky situation in which Thomas Mann found himself in October 1922. Addressing a conservative audience hostile to the young Weimar Republic, the renowned author, whose wartime support for the German Empire against the Western democracies had won him acclaim in nationalist circles now undertook the onerous task of convincing his listeners of the worthiness of democracy. Avoiding the easy path of pragmatic realism—democracy as the result of the military defeat of the empire in 1918 or as an ideological demand of the emergent American hegemony—he attempted instead to demonstrate the compatibility of democratic principles with fundamental aspects of German culture in order to defend the counterintuitive proposition that the notion of a German republic was not itself a contradiction in terms.
The literary formula that Mann selected to make his case was Novalis plus Walt Whitman, that is, the presumed affinity of the cipher of German aesthetic culture with the representative poet of American...
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Arnold, Armin. Heine in England and America: A Bibliographical Check-List. London: Linden Press, 1959, 80 p.
A thorough research guide to translations and criticism of Heine's work.
Bieber, Hugo, ed. Heinrich Heine: A Biographical Anthology. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1956, 452 p.
A well-annotated collection of excerpts from Heine's poetry, prose, and letters which attempts to present Heine's own interpretation of his life.
Brod, Max. Heinrich Heine: The Artist in Revolt. Translated by Joseph Witriol. New York: New York University Press, 1957,355 p.
A comprehensive biography which approaches Heine's life and work through an awareness of his German-Jewish background.
Butler, E. M. Heinrich Heine: A Biography. New York: Philosophical Library, 1957, 291 p.
A critical biography. Butler believes that a purely aesthetic approach to Heine is inadequate because his works "are all fragments of a great confession, and, passionately personal in nature throughout, they are frequently autobiographical in content."
Marcuse, Ludwig. Heine: A Life between...
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