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Heinrich Heine




Reading Books

When one has too much to write to people, one ceases to write altogether; but necessity compels me to take up my pen today.... I must give your style the highest praise. I am a competent judge of style only, on your life, do not grow careless and do not cease to study the turns of speech, and the framing of words of Lessing, Luther, Goethe, Varnhagen, and H. Heine; may God preserve this last classic!

I need solitude for my work; a number of annoying adventures have prevented my writing a single intelligent word in the last four weeks; and I am constrained to end my life the written one.

My most important work is my Memoirs, but they will not appear soon. I should like best for them to be published after my death!

But tell me what is the fundamental reason for the curse which falls upon all men of great genius? Why does the lightning of unhappiness strike most often the lofty spirits, the towers of humanity, while it so compassionately spares the humble thatched roofs of mediocrity?

I am trying to fortify my mind for the future; not long ago I read the whole of Shakespeare, and now, by the sea, I am reading the Bible. As for public opinion of my earlier writings it depends so much upon such a sequence and concurrence of things that I cannot have much to do with it myself. But I do honestly confess that the great interests of European life always interest me far more than my own books que Dieu les prenne en sa sainte et digne garde!

To Alexandre Dumas

I have been bed-ridden for six years. In the worst hours of my illness, when I was in the greatest agony, my wife used to read aloud your romances, and that was the only thing that could make me forget my suffering.

I devoured them all, and as they were read aloud I used often to cry out: `What a gifted poet is this great boy called Alexandre Dumas!'

Truly, after Cervantes and Madame Schariar, known by the name of the Sultana Scheherazade, you are the most entertaining story-teller I know.

Strange, after having passed the whole of my life in gliding about the dancing floors of philosophy, and abandoning myself to all the orgies of the intellect, and dallying with systems without ever being satisfied I have suddenly arrived at the same point of view as Uncle Tom, taking my stand on the Bible and kneeling beside my black brother in prayer in the same act of devotion.

I have, as they say, done nothing in this lovely world. I have become nothing, nothing but a poet.

No; I will not succumb to hypocritical humility and disparage that title. A man who is a poet is much, and much if he is a great lyric poet in Germany, in the nation which has surpassed all others in two things philosophy and song. I will not deny my fame as a poet with false modesty, the invention of rascals. None of my compatriots has won his laurels so easily as I...

Ah! Fame, that gew-gaw once so sweet, sweet as pine-apples and flattery, has been spoiled for me for long enough; it is as bitter to me now as wormwood. I can say like Romeo: `I am Fortune's fool.' I stand now before the great tureen, but I have no spoon. What does it boot me that my health is drunk in the best wines from golden goblets at banquets, when I myself, cut off from all the pleasures of the world, can only moisten my lips with a thin gruel?



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