Heine was born into an assimilated Jewish family in Düsseldorf, Germany. His father was a tradesman. After his father's business failed, Heine was sent to Hamburg. His uncle in Hamburg was a very successful banker, so Heine started learning banking, but he soon dropped it. Then Heine started to study law at the universities of Göttingen, Bonn and Berlin but was more interested in literature than law. He nonetheless took a degree in law in 1825. At the same time he decided to convert from Judaism to Protestantism because of the severe restrictions on Jews in the German states. Only Christians were allowed to have certain businesses or to be clerks of the state. Jews were also forbidden to become university professors, a particular ambition at the time for Heine. Heine himself said, his conversion was "the ticket of admission into European culture". Heine is best known for his lyric poetry, much of which was set to music by lieder composers, including especially Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann.
His start as poet Heine was made with Gedichte ("Poems") in 1821. Heine's 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.
He remained in Paris for the rest of his life. His only visit to Germany was in 1843. German authorities banned his works and those of others who were considered to be associated with the Young Germany movement in 1835.
Heine continued to comment on German politics and society from a distance. Heine wrote Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen (Germany. A Winter's Tale). In 1844; his friend, Karl Marx, published it in his newspaper Vorwärts ("Forward") in 1844.
One of the books was burned by the Nazis. One of Heine's most famous lines is now: "Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too" (Almansor, 1821).
In 1851 Heinrich Heine wrote the "König Richard" poem. The poem was written in tribute to King Richard I of England and it was translated into several languages.
- Gedichte, 1821
- Tragödien, nebst einem lyrischen Intermezzo, 1823
- Reisebilder, 1826-31
- Die Harzreise, 1826
- Ideen, das Buch le Grand, 1827
- Englische Fragmente, 1827
- Buch der Lieder, 1827
- Französische Zustände, 1833
- Zur Geschichte der neueren schönen Literatur in Deutschland, 1833
- Die romantische Schule, 1836
- Der Salon, 1836-40
- Über Ludwig Börne, 1840
- Neue Gedichte, 1844 - New Poems
- Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen, 1844 - Germany
- Atta Troll. Ein Sommernachtstraum, 1847
- Romanzero, 1851
- Der Doktor Faust, 1851.
- Les Dieux en Exil, 1853
- Die Harzreise, 1853
- Lutezia, 1854
- Vermischte Schriften, 1854
- Letzte Gedichte und Gedanken, 1869
- Sämtliche Werke, 1887-90 (7 Vols.) (collected works)
- Sämtliche Werke, 1910-20 (collected works)
- Sämtliche Werke, 1925-30 (collected works)
- Werke und Briefe, 1961-64 (works and letters)
- Sämtliche Schriften, 1968 (all written works)
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- "Ihr Lieder! Ihr meine guten Lieder!" Archived 2005-12-31 at the Wayback Machine A guide to musical settings for one or two voices of the poetry of Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) by Peter W. Shea.
- Heinrich-Heine-Gesellschaft e.V.
- Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
- Complete works of Heine online (in German)
- Selected English translations online Archived 2006-02-08 at the Wayback Machine
- Art of the States: The Resounding Lyre Archived 2006-02-06 at the Wayback Machine Musical setting of Heine's poem "Halleluja"
- Selections From Heine's Poems, Boston, D.C. Heath & Co., 1890, p. 134.
- Heinrich Heine's Sämmtliche Werke. Bibliothek-Ausgabe (The Complete Poetic Works of Heinrich Heine. Library Edition), Hamburg: Hoffman und Campe, 1885, p. 45.