Heinrich Heine

Heinrich Heine (hīn´rĬkh hī´nə), 1797–1856, German poet, b. Düsseldorf, of a Jewish family. One of the greatest of German lyric poets, he had a varied career. After failing in business he tried law but found it uncongenial and finally turned to history and literature. His first published poems and plays established him as a young romantic. In the literary salon of Rahel Varnhagen von Ense he met, among others, Fouqué, Chamisso, Hoffmann, Grabbe, and Immermann; some of these became life-long friends, others bitter enemies. Disillusioned with Germany and in political disgrace because of his liberal sympathies, he left for Paris (1831), where he supported the social ideals of the French Revolution, becoming for a time a Saint-Simonist. As the towering figure of the revolutionary literary movement Young Germany, he continued from Paris to disseminate French revolutionary ideas in Germany. He received a French government pension, worked as correspondent for German newspapers, and died after years of severe illness, during which he was nursed by his faithful "Mouche" (who used the pen name Camille Selden). Heine's writing reflects the dualism of his nature; it shows strong influences of both classic and romantic German literature. Despite a conversion to Christianity, Jewish themes frequently figure in his works, as does the influence of English and French literature. His Buch der Lieder (1827, tr. Book of Songs, 1846), which contains the lyric cycles "Nordsee" and "Lyrisches Intermezzo," shows his indebtedness to the romantic folk-song poets. Other collections of poems are Neue Gedichte (1847), Romanzero (1851), and Letzte Gedichte (1853). Schumann composed music for Heine's poems, as did Schubert, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and many others. His lyrics have been used in more than 3,000 compositions, the most popular perhaps being "Die Lorelei," with melody by Friedrich Silcher (1789–1860). Heine's later poems and especially his prose works established him as a satirist of barbed wit and as an embittered critic of romanticism, of jingoistic patriotism, and of current social and political affairs. Most poignant are Die Harzreise [Harz journey] (1826) and Reisebilder [travel pictures] (1827–31), which combine poetry and prose. Atta Troll (1843) and Deutschland (1844) reflect his reaction to German anti-Semitism, as do his earliest dramatic work, Almansor, and an unfinished novel, Der Rabbi von Bacharach. Possibly because of their cosmopolitan character, Heine's works have never been as popular in Germany as they have in other lands. Virtually all of Heine's works have been translated into English, notably by E. A. Bowring, Havelock Ellis, C. G. Leland, Louis Untermeyer, and Humbert Wolfe.

See biography by E. M. Butler (1956); studies by M. Brod (1957), S. S. Prower (1961), L. Hofrichter (1963), M. Spann (1966), J. L. Sammons (1979), P. Kossoff (1983).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Heinrich Heine
Laura Hofrichter; Barker Fairley.
Clarendon Press, 1963
Heine, the Tragic Satirist: A Study of the Later Poetry, 1827-1856
S. S. Prawer.
University Press, 1961
Paintings on the Move: Heinrich Heine and the Visual Arts
Susanne Zantop.
University of Nebraska Press, 1989
FREE! Life of Heinrich Heine
William Sharp.
Walter Scott, 1888
Selected Critical Writings
George Quo Eliot; Rosemary Quo Ashton.
Oxford University, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "German Wit: Heinrich Heine (1856)" begins on p. 19
Gender and Germanness: Cultural Productions of Nation
Patricia Herminghouse; Magda Mueller.
Berghahn Books, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "How to Think about Germany: Nationality, Gender, and Obsession in Heine's 'Night Thoughts'"
The Lion and the Eagle: Interdisciplinary Essays on German-Spanish Relations over the Centuries
Conrad Kent; Thomas K. Wolber; Cameron M. K. Hewitt.
Berghahn Books, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Spain in Heine - Heine in Spain: Notes on a Bilateral Reception"
The Mind of Germany: The Education of a Nation
Hans Kohn.
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1960
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Five "Heinrich Heine: Poet and Patriot"
Literary Theory and Criticism Festschrift Presented to René Wellek in Honor of His Eightieth Birthday
Joseph P. Strelka.
Peter Lang, 1984
Librarian’s tip: "Heinrich Heine: Reception in the World's Strangeness" begins on p. 1245
From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature
Burton L. Visotzky; David E. Fishman.
Westview Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Heinrich Heine begins on p. 243
Industrialization and Imperialism, 1800-1914: A Biographical Dictionary
Jeffrey A. Bell.
Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Heinrich Heine begins on p. 158
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