Heinrich Heine 1854

Letter to Dumas

Source: Correspondance inédite. Paris, Calmann Lévy, 1877;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2011.

Paris, March 28, 1854
My Dear Dumas;

A column in your paper announces that I am about to publish a new poem and even gives the title. This information is false.

I have never written a poem that might bear any relation to this title and I request, dear friend, that you place this rectification in your paper.

I would not be unhappy if you would be kind enough to announce to your readers at the same time that I will soon be publishing a complete edition of my poems translated from the German by myself as well as by friendly collaborators.

Don’t lend this insinuation the air of an advertisement, since its sole goal is that of sheltering my poor poetry from the unwonted zeal of certain littérateurs and industrialists who put themselves forth as intermediaries without having received the mission for this either from myself or my august father, Phoebus Apollo. After such a notice any subsequent attempt to impinge on my prerogatives as author would be not simply presumptuous, it would be disloyal.

A few weeks ago you expressed in your paper the intention of coming to see me soon. I warn you that if you delay your visit much longer you will no longer find me in my current apartment, 50, rue d'Amsterdam, and I might have already left for a lodging that is totally unknown to me. And so I couldn’t leave my new address with the porter in case late arriving friends like you ask after me. I don’t have an exalted idea of my future residence. I only know that you enter through a dark and fetid passageway and this entryway displeases me in advance. And so my wife cries when I speak of this move.

Madame Heine remembers well all the kindnesses you did us twelve years ago or even more.

I have been bed-ridden for six years. During the worst moments of my illness, when I had to endure the worst tortures, my wife read me your novels and this was the only thing that could make me forget my pain.

And so I devoured them all, and during those readings I sometimes cried out: “What an ingenious poet this Alexandre Dumas is!”

It is certain that after Cervantes and Madame Shariar, better known as the Sultana Scheherazade, you are the most amusing storyteller I know.

What facility! What lack of self-consciousness! And what a good child you are! In truth, I only know of one defect you possess, that of modesty.

My god, those who accuse you of bragging and rodomontade have no idea of the greatness of your talent. They see nothing but vanity. For my part, I say that however tall you are, and however high the somersaults vanity might make, it could never reach the knees, what am I saying, it could never reach the calves of your admirable talent. Flatter yourself all you want; offer yourself the most hyperbolic praise, don’t hold yourself back in this and you still couldn’t say as much as you deserve concerning your marvelous productions.

Your marvelous productions! “Yes, that’s the truth,” has just cried out Madame Heine, who is listening to the dictation of this letter. And the parrot in her hand repeats, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”

You see, my dear friend, that at our home everyone is in agreement in admiring you.