|The July Revolution and Heinrich Heine|
The July Revolution of 1830 in Paris produced startling consequences throughout Europe, and most particularly in Germany. One result of this revolution was the formation of a new group of young authors, known as the Young Germans, who advocated political action in order to achieve republican ideals. Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), although not officially a member of the Young Germany school, was allied with them in many of his beliefs and ideals. As a poet, critic, and satirist of the government in Germany, Heine encountered difficulty in his homeland, and in 1831 he undertook a voluntary exile to Paris, where he lived for the rest of his life. In Paris, he was a correspondent for the German Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung ; he also wrote several books and translated German works into French for the French public. In so doing, Heine became a kind of middleman between France and Germany, facilitating communication and promoting increased understanding of the two cultures. In spite of the claims of many critics, who say that Heine fled Germany to immerse himself in French affairs, Heine's writings show that he retained an active and vital link with his homeland, and that he was a strong advocate of the ideals of the July Revolution and republicanism, at least until his terminal paralysis in 1848, at which point he ceased to produce many politically motivated writings.|
In France, after Charles X had ascended the throne in 1824, he attempted to undo many of the changes that his brother, Louis XVIII, had made before him. Charles became fiercely royalistic, arguing for more power and the right to control his subjects, and this angered the French people tremendously, especially those who had played a role in setting the more democratic Louis XVIII on the throne after the defeat of Napoleon. On July 26, 1830, when Charles published a set of ordinances which suspended freedom of the press and reduced the size of the electorate, the people became outraged; the next day, July 27, the city of Paris, under the leadership of liberal advocates such as François Guizot, Louis Adolphe Thiers, and the aging Marquis de Lafayette, rose up against Charles. Three days later, Charles abdicated and fled to England, while his cousin, the Duke d'Orléans, was crowned as Louis-Philippe, the 'citizen-king'. His reign, known as the July Monarchy, lasted until the revolution of February 1848. 
In Germany, as throughout Europe, the effect of this revolution was strong and immediate. The German states, while still not truly united, were in effect led by the two kingdoms surrounding them, Austria and Prussia. Austria in particular possessed an exceptionally reactionary government which was still responding with fierce absolutism and repression to the threat caused by Napoleon; Prussia, too, although seen as reformist, enforced strict measures of censorship and control over its inhabitants. The people, however, or at least the bourgeois and the lower classes, welcomed the July Revolution as a hopeful sign. In addition to a positive social reaction, there were literary and political effects as well: as elsewhere in Europe, a republican movement arose, consisting mainly of younger writers born after 1800, who advocated using the French system as a model for the rebuilding of their own, and who were in favor of destroying the ancien régime of German feudalism. As one author states:
Modeling themselves on similar groups in other European nations, such as Giuseppi Mazzini's Young Italy, this group of authors, most of whom were journalists or beginning novelists, began to call themselves 'Young Germany'. The title came from the dedication of a book by one of their leading authors, Ludwig Wienbarg, in which he writes: "To you, young Germany, I dedicate this work, not to the old."  These authors were strongly attracted to the ideals of the July Revolution and to the philosophy of Saint-Simon, one of the liberal thinkers in France at the time; Saint-Simonism advocated, among other social goals, the liberation of women and the emancipation of the senses, in addition to encouraging republican and democratic sentiments. The Young Germans also felt that the time had come for politically active literature, as opposed to the classical and romantic conception of literature as divorced from politics; advocating the example of France, Karl Gutzkow wrote in 1832:
Although most of these authors did not promote open revolution against their governments, they were nonetheless seen as dangerous by the political leaders, as well as by the more conservative members of the newly-formed Poetic Realism and Biedermeier schools, who preferred stately, serene, and controlled literature, not the often shocking and wild imagery of the Young Germans. It must be admitted that the works of the Young Germans were sometimes deliberately provocative, as in this excerpt from Adolf Glassbrenner's Bilder und Träume aus Wien. Here, the author has gone to use a public bath, and has encountered a young widow, to whom he confesses his attraction:
Perhaps the sharpest critic of the Young Germans was a fellow journalist, Wolfgang Menzel, who, both out of personal quarrels, anti-Semitism, and ideological differences, led a campaign to ban the works of the Young Germany school. His critique of Heine's influence on German literature, published in 1859, after Heine's death, shows clearly some of the harsh accusations which he heaped upon Heine and the Young Germans:
Menzel's relentless attacks on the Young Germans succeeded in 1835, when the German Bundestag, the Federal Diet, passed a resolution condemning by name several of the authors:
Although the Bundestag listed Heine among the authors of the Young Germany school, in reality he did not consider himself to be allied with them. Certainly he shared many of the same ideals; he, too, held to the tenets of Saint-Simonism, rejoiced at the July Revolution, and believed that literature should no longer be excluded from political comment. He did not, however, encourage or even advocate the idea of a violent revolution in Germany, and he was not even wholeheartedly supportive of all French ideals. Despite his disavowals, however, the general public, and indeed literary historians even to the present, insisted on classifying Heine as a Young German. Later in his life, in fact, Heine came to accept the fact that he was forever tied to these men, many of whom he did not even know; as he stated, somewhat ironically, in the mid-1840's:
Heine was, however, already in exile in France by the time the Bundestag's decree was made. After leaving Düsseldorf, where he had been born in 1797, and attending consecutively the universities of Bonn, Berlin, and Göttingen, Heine had begun his career in literature by publishing a collection of poems, and then the successful Reisebilder, which assured his popularity as a poet and novelist. He had obtained his doctorate of law in 1825, and at the same time had decided to convert from Judaism to Christianity. This was necessary because of the severe restrictions on Jews in the German states; in many cases, they were forbidden, without specific permission, to have their own businesses or to leave the areas in which they were assigned to live. Understandably, then, as Heine himself said, his conversion was "the ticket of admission into European culture."  He continued to publish, writing both poems and novels, but he met increasing resistance, both from members of the Romantic school, who criticized his writing as too harsh and cynical, and from the Poetic Realism school, who objected to his sarcasm and to what they considered obscenity (i.e., sensuality) in his works. He contemplated moving to another country in order to write more successfully, but none was particularly appealing to him. In 1830, when he heard the news of the July Revolution, he was overjoyed; he truly believed in the cause of the revolution, and thought that it would succeed. At the same time, seeing the newfound liberty in France made Heine sadly aware of the oppressive conditions in his homeland; he realized, however, that the German people simply did not have the strength or the impetus to accomplish such an action themselves, and that maybe they never would. In a letter dated November 29, 1830, Heine wrote the following:
Heine became so caught up in the July Revolution, and indeed in French ideals, that, especially in later years, he often used French subjects in metaphors while speaking of German topics. Thus, for instance, did he characterize Martin Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God", as "the Marseillaise Hymn of the Reformation."  Also, although Heine in general did not advocate a violent revolution in Germany, he nonetheless seemed to believe that if such a revolution could be accomplished, it would do good to the nation. Speaking metaphorically in his essay entitled The Romantic School (1833), he compares inhumane practices and restrictions on liberty to goblins and ghosts, noting that France is "a country where there are no ghosts"; he then proceeds to describe Germany:
Heine thus decided to visit France, on what was supposedly a temporary visit; he arrived there in May of 1831, almost a year after the July Revolution. He had been debating the journey for quite some time. He realized that life was growing more difficult for him in Germany; censorship was becoming even more strict, and he was having increasing difficulty publishing his work. He did, however, love his homeland, and did not want to spend the rest of his life in exile. However, the July Revolution and the activities in Paris inexorably drew him closer; as early as August 1830, he had written:
Shortly before he left for France, Heine published a collection of letters which he had written while on a trip to England in 1827. He added an afterword to this piece, and in it he spoke of the effect of the July Revolution; one scholar has seen this as a reflection of his attitudes while contemplating his move to France:
In Paris, Heine found that he was eagerly welcomed into the salons and spoken of highly in the most fashionable circles, all as a result of his being an émigré from Germany, a country which the French saw as suffering under a tyrant regime. In fact, Heine loved life in Paris. In 1832 he wrote to a friend, "if anyone asks you how I am tell him 'like a fish in water,' or rather, tell people that when one fish in the sea asks another how he is, he receives the reply: 'I am like Heine in Paris.'"  Just before he left Germany, he had been contacted by the German newspaper publisher Baron Cotta, who asked Heine to be a French correspondent for Cotta's Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung. Heine was happy to do this, for not only did it provide him with a steady income, but it also allowed him the opportunity to express his ideas to the public he had left behind.
In fact, it was around the time of Heine's arrival in Paris that he began to develop a feeling for what his exact purpose would be there. This point has been disputed rather vigorously among scholars, but it seems that Heine felt that he was to play the role of mediator between the two cultures. This is a fact which many historians fail to notice, but which is clearly expressed in Heine's own writings. Most historians and literary critics have stated that Heine, rather than remaining devoted to his homeland, abandoned Germany for Paris, and spent the rest of his life immersed in French affairs. Thus, in a highly biased overview of German literature, Kuno Francke states that, because Heine and Ludwig Börne (another Young German) fled to Paris and lost touch with attitudes in Germany, he feels compelled to acknowledge
Francke goes on in many places to criticize Heine for his lack of consistency, his social ideals, and his actions while in Paris: "the fatal defect, the essential barrenness of Heine's life," he says, is that "this man, who could speak so fervently of the ideals of existence, never placed his genius in the service of these ideals." He continues, saying that "when we come to cast the balance of his life, we find that, with all his noble sympathies and aspirations, he was at the end -- or shall we not rather say at the beginning? -- religiously, politically, and even artistically a renegade."  In his concluding remarks, Francke's bias turns to outright disparagement, criticizing practically all of Heine's actions and decisions, and asking: "Is it too much to say that of all the writers of his time Heine is the saddest example of the intellectual degeneration wrought by the political principles of the age of the Restoration?" 
This sentiment is echoed by other historians as well, although usually in a less colored manner. Eda Sagarra, for instance, calls Heine a "turncoat" to his homeland , and one of his biographers, Antonina Vallentin, criticizes him for being out of touch with the state of affairs in Germany by 1835: "Heine by no means realized the changes which had come to pass in Germany since his departure; he knew only the Germany of 1830, as his friends remarked." 
Some of these statements may have been true for Heine, and it is undoubtedly fair to say that he loved France and the ideas he encountered there. He did not, however, forsake Germany. Perhaps due to the very necessity of writing his columns for Cotta's newspaper, but also because of his extreme interest in German politics, Heine remained attuned to German culture. Obviously he did not have first-hand access to events, nor could he freely travel into Germany after the decree of the Bundestag in 1835. His writings, however, clearly show how concerned he was with his homeland. In essence, Heine believed that he could be a mediator in the communication between Germany and France. He therefore wrote not solely for one group or the other; he addressed his works to both Germans and French, and he attempted to promote understanding between the two peoples by enriching the availability of knowledge about the two cultures. Only one scholar seems to have noted this aspect of Heine's works: rather than criticizing his move to France, Robert Holub's introduction to a collection of Heine's essays brings out clearly Heine's true motives in France, as seen through his writings and his actions:
Heine also warned the French about what he thought might occur in Germany in the future. In his essay Concerning the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, written in French and published in 1834 in a magazine devoted to French-German affairs, the Revue des Deux Mondes, Heine set out his beliefs as to what was in store for Germany. He believed that someday there would be a reversal of the current order; whether this would happen through revolution or simple progression was ambiguous. In any case, however, he warned the French that this overturning was coming, as in this explicit and powerful example:
This essay, when first published, was dedicated to Prosper Enfantin, then considered the head of the Saint-Simonistic school, although the dedication was withdrawn in 1855 at Heine's request. In the opening lines of the book, Heine specifically states his intentions; his purpose in writing the book, he says, is to give the French people a discussion of German literature that they can understand, and which will aid them in their quest for understanding their mysterious neighbors:
The same work was later included, together with Heine's earlier essay The Romantic School, in a book entitled De l'Allemagne. In explaining his purpose in writing this essay, Heine said in the mid 1840's that his work was a direct response to a survey of German literature by Madame de Staël, which had been published in 1814, with, coincidentally, the same title:
Another way in which Heine attempted to bring the two nations closer consisted, rather ironically, of setting out their differences. In doing so, he made comparisons, in his typical humorous, ironic style, that showed clearly his attunement to both cultures. Consider this telling excerpt, which he included, somewhat strangely, in the same essay:
Later in the same work Heine discusses the German reaction to the French Revolution, and he again makes a very interesting comparison, one which surely aided him in his quest to promote mutual understanding by giving his French readers a view of German thought:
Heine made numerous other references to the Revolution in his writings, and he became a champion of the republican cause. Even Francke, the harsh critic of Heine's years in Paris, admits that Heine's sympathies were heartfelt and consistent, and that his method of comparison illustrated the ideals he held very explicitly:
In attempting to show that Heine still retained a vital link to German culture, and in showing how influential he was in aiding communication between the two countries, a note must also be made regarding Heine's decision about becoming a naturalized French citizen. He took steps to do so as early as 1832, partly as a matter of personal safety against any possible German action, and he secured French governmental approval, with minor difficulty, so that he could be naturalized at any time if he so desired. In the end, however, he decided against it. This may seem superficial, but it is explained by Heine as being an important point of ethical behavior, one which reflects his link to Germany, even late in life:
Indeed, Heine remained exceedingly loyal and patriotic to his homeland, even during his exile in France. Defending attacks against his supposed desertion of Germany, he addressed these words to his German critics in 1844:
Heine spent the rest of his life in Paris, although he did make one brief trip back to visit his mother in 1842. By 1843 he had ceased writing regularly for the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung; as he stated in May 1848:
In 1848, Heine fell ill with a terminal spinal paralysis, as a result of the syphilis which he had contracted while still in college. For the next eight years he was confined to his bed, which he sadly called his "mattress grave". The Revolution of 1848, which overthrew the July Monarchy, did not come as a true surprise to Heine, since he was aware of the unrest that had been building among the lower classes, and he could not have avoided noticing the food shortages and general misery that were again setting in throughout France. Although Heine was no longer writing actively, since he had gone virtually blind by 1849, he did express feelings of sadness and betrayal at the turn of events in his idolized France. He had earlier expressed his sorrow about the course that the July Revolution had taken, as shown in this most poignant example, contained in the essay Ludwig Börne: A Memorial (1840):
By 1848, though, at least in some of his writings, he appears to have become disillusioned with the Republican cause; in 1855, for example, he wrote:
As Robert Holub writes in his Introduction to Heine's essays, Heine's writings, in particular the Börne Memorial, show his thoughts on the proper structure for a successful revolution; Holub states that Heine felt
Heine was therefore disillusioned by both the 1830 and 1848 Revolutions, as he felt that they did not in effect change the lives of the people, at least not in the ways or to the extent that he believed necessary.
Heine died on February 17, 1856, in his apartment in Paris. He had taken little active part in politics for the last years of his life; nonetheless, he had retained a link with his homeland, through his correspondence and visits from his friends. Although critics have claimed that he abandoned Germany to devote himself to political and social life in Paris, this is disproven by his numerous writings which concern Germany directly, and by his stated goal to facilitate communication between the two nations. As a result of the July Revolution, then, Heine, one of Germany's foremost poets and political journalists at the time, came to Paris, and there succeeded in establishing a vehicle for promoting cultural understanding. Heine never ceased to write for Germany, though, even when exiled in France, and he must be seen not as a traitor to Germany, but as a loyal citizen working for the good of his homeland.
Written and © Nancy Thuleen in 1991 for History 110 at Pomona College.
If needed, cite using something like the following:
Thuleen, Nancy. "The July Revolution and Heinrich Heine." Website Article. 29 April 1991. <http://www.nthuleen.com/papers/141papereng.html>.