Thursday, April 24, 2008

some praise and bitter censure

Heinrich Heine to Ferdinand Dummler.

Berlin, Jan. 5, 1823.

Our mutual friends have praised your activity and loyalty. Because, being sharpened by experience, I do most loyally esteem these qualities in a bookseller, more than any other interest, I now make you a proposal to publish one of my books.* It contains (1) a little tragedy (some three and a half printer's sheets long), the main idea of which is to be a substitute for the usual Fate, and will certainly cause a stir in the reading world; (2) a longer dramatic poem, called "Almansor" the matter of which is religious and polemical; it is concerned with topics of the day, and will cover perhaps a little more than six sheets, and (3) a cycle of humorous poems in folk-song metre that will take up three to three and a half sheets; some of them have appeared in the journals, and by their originality have excited much interest, some praise and bitter censure. As to the little tragedy which I have designed for the stage, where it is certain to be produced, I will give you its title and contents as soon as I find that you are not averse to my proposal. I do not want it to be known here before it has begun to be printed, and only two people, Professor Gubitz and Councillor Varnhagen von Ense have seen it.

I cannot myself pass any judgment upon my own worth as a poet. I will only say that my poems have excited extraordinary attention throughout Germany, and that the very violence of the hostility with which they have been assailed here and there is itself no bad sign . . .

I do not think I am much known here in Berlin; but I am better known in my own country on the Rhine and in Westphalia, where, as I hear from all sides, there is great anticipation of the appearance of my long expected book of poems, and its greatest sale will certainly be there

*Tragödien, nebst einem lyrischen Intermezzo (Berlin: Dummler, 1823)

-from Heinrich Heine's Memoirs from his Works, Letters, and Conversations edited by Gustav Karpeles translated by Gilbert Cannan (London: William Heinemann, 1910) vol. 1.

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