Multicultural Writers from Antiquity to 1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Alba Amoia; Bettina L.Knapp | Go to book overview

HEINRICH HEINE

(1797-1856)

Max E. Noordhoom


BIOGRAPHY

Heinrich Heine was born in Düsseldorf, the eldest son of Jewish parents. He received some Jewish education as a child, but his mother, Betty van Gelderen, influenced by the French Revolution and ambitious for her son's future, had him educated by freethinking Jesuits at the Düsseldorf Lyceum. Not surprisingly, he became a liberal and was for many years an ardent admirer of Napoleon. He took his law degree in Göttingen in 1825, but never practiced law. He began to establish a name as a poet and journalist in the 1820s and was among the first Germans successfully to make a living as a man of letters. As a young man he had apparently conceived an unrequited passion for one, if not both, of his uncle Solomon's daughters. The emotional impact of the experiences colored the cycles of poems that were eventually collected in Buch der Lieder (1827), which established his fame in Germany and abroad.

Unable to find a permanent position in Germany, he left in 1831 for Paris, where he spent the rest of his life, undertaking but two trips to his native land. Saint-Simonism, which he dreamt of as his “new religion” with its social order fit for an industrial and scientific age, was the magnet that drew him to France. Heine hoped that it could effect a reconciliation between “Nazarism, spirituality in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Hellenism, life-affirming sensualism, in order to attain the synthesis that he had long yearned for. The greater political freedom and the new social order under the citizen-king Louis Philippe also spurred his interest. He wrote many articles for German newspapers and French journals, interpreting the cultural and political scene within the larger framework of sociopolitical, historic trends. These political essays appeared in Französische Zustände (1832). His letters from Paris appeared later as part of a four-volume set, Der Salon (1834-1840). To acquaint his French readership with German literary and philosophical developments, while simultaneously counteracting the

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