Sue Young Histories

Christian Johann Heinrich Heine 1797 – 1856

June 07, 2009

Christian Johann Heinrich Heine 1797 –
1856Christian Johann Heinrich Heine 1797 – 1856 was a journalist, essayist, and one of the most significant German romantic poets.

Heinrich Heine’s mother was an advocate of homeopathy, but Heinrich Heine was not so sure. He wrote to her “I duly received thy last letter. I have no great opinion of homeopathy, yet next year I will certainly do something something vigourous for my illness… (Heinrich Heine, Ludwig Embden (Freiherr von.), The Family Life of Heinrich Heine: Illustrated by 122 Hitherto Unpublished Letters Addressed to Him by Members of His Family, (W. Heinemann, 1893). Page 185)…’ However, Heinrich Heine eventually (John James Drysdale, Robert Ellis Dudgeon, John Rutherfurd Russell, Richard Hughes, The British Journal of Homeopathy, Volume 15, (1857). Page 170) became a close friend with his homeopath, whom he met under unusual circumstances. Heinrich Heine was also a patient of David Ferdinand Koreff.

Heinrich Heine was a St. Simonist when he lived in Paris, and he knew Louis Hector Berlioz, and so he may well have known fellow St. Simonists Paul Francois Curie, Franz Liszt, Leon Francois Adolphe Simon, and many others.

Heinrich Heine may also have known Victor HugoAlexandre Dumas, Niccolo Paganini, Franz Liszt, George Sand, and Theophile Gautier,

Heinrich Heine was related by marriage to Ignaz Moscheles, and his patron was James de Rothschild, and he was also a close friend of Bettina von Arnim, Frederic Chopin, Heinrich Laube, Friedrich Jakob Rummel, Robert Alexander Schumann,

When his friend Ernst, a violinist, asked him to take some sausages to his physician in Paris. Becoming hungry on the long journey between lyon and Paris, Heine and his companions began to eat the sausages. Upon reaching Paris, Heine only had a sliver of the sausages left, which he duly presented to the homeopath:

‘… If homeopathy is a truth, then this little piece will have the same effect on you as the whole sausage… (Anon, Medical Review of Reviews, Volume 18, (Austin Flint Association, Incorporated, 1912). Page 552)…’

Heine and the homeopath, a Dr. R…, subsequently became close friends. (?possibly his friend Friedrich Jakob Rummel). His friend Heinrich Laube sent Heinrich Heine a letter via his homeopath. (?possibly his friend Friedrich Jakob Rummel).

Heine was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, which was then occupied by France (becoming part of Prussia in 1815). He was called “Harry” as a child, but after his baptism in 1825 he became “Heinrich”.His father was a merchant, and his mother, the daughter of a physician, was a refined and educated woman.

When his father’s business failed, Heine was sent to Hamburg. His wealthy banker uncle, Salomon, encouraged him to go into commerce, but his ventures in this sphere were not successful. Instead, he took up law, studying at the universities of Göttingen, Bonn and Berlin, where he heard Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s lectures on the philosophy of history (he later wrote a short satirical poem about Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s philosophy “Doctrine”).

During his student years he participated in the “Verein für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Judentumes” (“Society for the Culture and Scientific Study of Judaism”). Heine only stayed in the society for three years and left the group before earning a degree in law in 1825. The same year, he converted to Lutheranism.

Jews were subject to severe restrictions in many of the German states at that time. They were forbidden to enter certain professions, including an academic career in the universities, a particular ambition for Heine. As Heine said in self justification, his conversion was “the ticket of admission into European culture”.

He wrote, “As Henry IV said, ‘Paris is worth a mass’; I say, ‘Berlin is worth the sermon.‘” For much of the rest of his life Heine wrestled over the incompatible elements of his German and his Jewish identities.

Heine is best known for his lyric poetry, much of which (especially from his earlier works) was set to music by lied composers, most notably by Robert Alexander Schumann. Other composers who have set Heine’s works to music include Friedrich Silcher, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss, and Wilhelm Richard Wagner; and in the 20th century Hans Werner Henze, Carl Orff, Lord Berners and Paul Lincke.

As a poet, Heine made his debut with Gedichte (Poems) in 1821. Heine’s one sided infatuation with his cousins Amalie and Therese later inspired him to write some of his loveliest lyrics; Buch der Lieder (Book of Songs, 1827) was Heine’s first comprehensive collection of verse…

Heine, converted to Protestantism in 1825, and left Germany for France in 1831, settling in Paris for his remaining 25 years of life.

After arriving in Paris, he associated with utopian socialists. These included the followers of Count Saint Simon, who preached an egalitarian paradise based on meritocracy.

In 1832, Heine published, in French, Toward a history of philosophy and religion in Germany. “Never has a more extraordinary book sailed into the world under a more ordinary and discouraging title; yet for sheer literary panache, for bizarre anecdotes, historical snap judgements, and sheer intellectual wit and vigour, the book has few equals.”

German authorities banned his works and those of others who were considered to be associated with the ’Young Germany’ movement in

  1. Heine continued, however, to comment on German politics and society from a distance. He remained in Paris, with the exception of a visit in 1843 to Germany, for the rest of his life.

Heine wrote Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen (Germany. A Winter’s Tale), an account of his visit to Germany and the political climate there, in 1844; his friend, Karl Marx, published it in his newspaper Vorwärts (Forward) in 1844.

Heine also satirized the utopian politics of those opponents of the regime still in Germany in Atta Troll: Ein Sommernachtstraum (Atta Troll: A Midsummer Night’s Dream) in 1847. In the preface to Atta Troll he comments on the risk of arrest that he faced during his clandestine return visit to Germany…

Heine suffered from ailments that kept him bedridden for the last eight years of his life (some have suggested he suffered from multiple sclerosis or syphilis), although in 1997 it was confirmed through an analysis of the poet’s hair that he had suffered from chronic lead poisoning.

He died in Paris (his last words being: “God will forgive me. It’s his job.” and is interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.

The Walhalla temple in Bavaria plans to add Heine’s bust to its collection in 2009.

Among the thousands of books burned on Berlin’s Opernplatz in 1933, following the Nazi raid on the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, were works by Heinrich Heine. To commemorate the terrible event, one of the most famous lines of Heine’s 1821 play Almansor was engraved in the ground at the site: “Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.” (“Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people.“) In the original text, Heine had been referring to the burning of the Quran during the Spanish Inquisition…


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