Fanny Lewald, the “German George Sand, ” was the most important female German writer of her time. Although she published more than thirty pragmatic novels, most of them today are largely forgotten. She was born the eldest of eight children of an assimilated, liberal Jewish merchant in Prussian Königsberg, the town of Immanuel Kant. She attended private school for seven years, but when the school closed down, Fanny was constricted to the female role at home. She envied the education of boys, which demonstrated to her the injury done to women. A second experience of being different was the persecution of Jews in Germany in 1819, sparked by economic failure and national disillusionment after the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna. Her father, too, went bankrupt, but his business gradually recovered. She converted to Protestantism and was christened a la Heinrich Heine, who later became her friend and her “entrebillet to European culture.” “Trinity for me was the harmony of art, poetry, and thought, ” she wrote in her autobiography, Meine Lebensgeschichte (1861-1862). Her religion was Spinoza's philosophy of nature.
Accompanying her dominating father on a business tour, she met Ludwig Börne, whom she regarded highly for his Briefe aus Paris, through which he brought the ideas of the French revolution of 1830 to Germany. After two unhappy love affairs she opposed her father's wish of a marriage of convenience and began her career as a writer in 1840 with a report on celebrations in Königsberg for King Friedrich Wilhelm IV s accession. She at first published anonymously, on her father's orders, but with the success of her second novel, Jenny, in which she vindicates equality of rights and gender, she gave up her anonymity. She traveled to Italy for the first time in 1845, rented a flat in Rome, and frequented the city's colony of German artists. She met the Gymnasialprofessor and art historian Adolf Stahr, six years her elder, in poor health, married,