The German Classics: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English - Vol. 6

The German Classics: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English - Vol. 6

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The German Classics: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English - Vol. 6

The German Classics: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English - Vol. 6

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The history of German literature makes mention of few men more self-centered and at the same time more unreserved than Heinrich Heine. It may be said that everything which Heine wrote gives us, and was intended to give us, first of all some new impression of the writer; so that after a perusal of his works we know him in all his strength and weakness, as we can know only an amiable and communicative egotist; moreover, besides losing no opportunity for self-expression, both in and out of season, Heine published a good deal of frankly autobiographical matter, and wrote memoirs, only fragments of which have come down to us, but of which more than has yet appeared will perhaps ultimately be made accessible. Heine’s life, then, is to us for the most part an open book. Nevertheless, there are many obscure passages in it, and there remain many questions not to be answered with certainty, the first of which is as to the date of his birth. His own statements on this subject are contradictory, and the original records are lost. But it seems probable that he was born on the thirteenth of December, 1797, the eldest child of Jewish parents recently domiciled at Düsseldorf on the Rhine.

The parentage, the place, and the time were almost equally significant aspects of the constellation under which young Harry Heine—for so he was first named—began his earthly career. He was born a Jew in a German city which, with a brief interruption, was for the first sixteen years of his life administered by the French. the citizens of Düsseldorf in general had little reason, except for high taxes and the hardships incident to conscription in the French armies . . .

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