Chaim Harry Heine Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

The son of a Jewish merchant, Chaim Harry Heine spent his early years working toward goals set for him by his family. His secondary education ended in 1814 when he left the Düsseldorf Lyceum without being graduated. After failing in two apprenticeships in Frankfurt, he was sent to Hamburg to prepare for a career in commerce under the direction of a wealthy uncle. While there, he fell in love with his cousin Amalie. This unfulfilled relationship was a stimulus for verse that the young poet published in a local periodical. In 1818, his uncle set him up in a retailing enterprise, but within a year Harry Heine and Co. was bankrupt. Acknowledging that his nephew was unsuited for business, Uncle Salomon at last agreed to underwrite his further education.

Between 1819 and 1825, Heine studied in Bonn, Berlin, and Göttingen. His university years were very important for his development as a poet. While in Bonn, he attended lectures given by August Wilhelm von Schlegel, whose interest in his work stimulated Heine’s creativity. In the fall of 1820, he moved to Göttingen. Besides law, he studied German history and philology until January, 1821, when he challenged another student to a duel and was expelled from the university. He continued his studies in Berlin and was rapidly accepted into prominent literary circles. Included among the writers with whom he associated were Adelbert von Chamisso, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Christian Dietrich Grabbe. Rahel von Varnhagen helped in the publication of Heine’s first collection of poems in 1822, and he quickly became known as a promising talent. During a visit to Hamburg in 1823, he met Julius Campe, who afterward published all Heine’s works except a few...

(The entire section is 701 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

0111201553-Heine.jpg Heinrich Heine (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

When Heinrich Heine (HI-nuh) misstated his birth date as January 1, 1800, and described himself as “one of the first men of the nineteenth century,” he was not only exploiting the dual sense of “first”—earliest and foremost—but also engaging in a characteristic bit of obfuscation. Heinrich Heine was actually born Chaim Harry Heine on December 13, 1797, in Düsseldorf, Prussia (now in Germany), the son of Samson Heine, a merchant, and Betty (or Peira) von Geldern Heine. Both his given name, Harry, and his family name derived from Chaim (the latter by way of Heymann or Heinemann). The Jewish antecedents of the poet’s parents were impressive, but in his parental home Judaism had been downgraded. The boy received only a spotty Jewish education in a Jewish school, but later he was sent to a lyceum attached to a Franciscan monastery, where the teaching was done largely by French priests. There, Heine received an early taste of the French culture and spirit, coupled with his love of Napoleon I, to which Heine was later to become so attached. Napoleon the conqueror and emancipator had brought hope and freedom to German Jewry, but after his defeat many of the old restrictions were put in force again. Following a brief sojourn in Frankfurt, Heine was set up in business in Hamburg by his wealthy uncle Salomon Heine. A failure in business and in love (his affection for his cousins Amalie and Therese was unrequited), he was nevertheless a published poet at age twenty.

After attending the universities of Bonn and Gottingen, he spent two and a half fruitful years in Berlin, where he studied and frequented literary salons. In 1822, he joined the Verein für Kultur and Wissenschaft der Juden (Society for Jewish Culture and Scholarship), a group that strove to continue Moses Mendelssohn’s work of cultural emancipation. That autumn, he visited Prussian...

(The entire section is 762 words.)