Heyse, Paul

views updated May 23 2018


HEYSE, PAUL (1830–1914), German author and Nobel Prize winner. Heyse was born in Berlin and became one of the outstanding and most controversial figures in late 19th-century German literature. His father was a Christian, and professor at the University of Berlin, and his mother an assimilated Jewess. After graduating from Berlin University, he traveled to Italy, where he found inspiration for his tales in verse and prose novellen. The best known of the latter was L'Arrabiata (1853) while, of the former, Der Salamander (1867) was unrivaled in its genre. In 1854, King Maximilian II of Bavaria called the promising young writer to Munich, where he joined the school of lyricists headed by Emanuel Geibel. This group, which resembled the French Parnassians, devoted itself to the perfection of form rather than innovation of subject matter. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, Heyse was fiercely attacked by the rising generation of German naturalists for sacrificing virility to elegance of diction, and for dealing with foreign (especially Italian) themes rather than with the vital events of contemporary Germany. His best novels were Kinder der Welt (1873), on religious and social problems, and Im Paradies (1875), about artistic life in Munich. By 1910, when Heyse became the first German writer to gain the Nobel Prize for literature, the polemics directed against him came to an end. His lyrics and novellen then found an honored place in German literature. A Hebrew translation of Heyse's drama Die Weisheit Salomons was published by S.L. *Gordon (1896). His collected works appeared in 38 volumes in 1872–1914; a new series, also in 38 volumes, appeared in 1902–12.


H. Raff, Paul Heyse (1911); J.F. Klein, Beitraege zu Paul Heyses Novellentechnik (1920). add. bibliography: M. Werner (ed), Paul Heyse, Eine Bibliographie seiner Werke (1978); M. Krausnick, Paul Heyse und der Muenchner Dichterkreis, (1974); s.v. Moysi (ed.), Paul Heyse, Muenchner Dichterfuerst im buergerlichen Zeitalter, (exhibition catalog, 1981); G. Kroes-Tillmann, Paul Heyseitalianissimo. Ueber seine Dichtungen und Nachdichtungen, (1993); K. Koebe, Die Paul Heyse Rezeption zwischen 1850 und 1914. Kritische Wuerdigung und dichterisches Selbstbewusstsein im Wechselspiel, (2000); N. Nelhiebel, Epik im Realismus. Studien zu den Versnovellen von Paul Heyse (2000); R. Berbig and W. Hettche (ed.), Paul Heyse, Ein Schriftsteller zwischen Deutschland und Italien (2001).

[Sol Liptzin /

Konrad Feilchenfeldt (2nd ed.)]

Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse

views updated May 23 2018

Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse

The German author Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse (1830-1914) is best known for his novellas. Marked by careful construction, nobility and dignity of content, and economy of form, these works reveal his relation to the classical tradition.

Paul Heyse was born in Berlin on March 15, 1830. The son of a professor, he pursued studies leading to a doctorate in philology. During an extended visit to Italy in 1852, he determined to abandon formal scholarship for a career in literature. In 1854 he was summoned to Munich by Maximilian II, king of Bavaria, who granted him a lifetime stipend. His subsequent career as a leader of the Munich Poets' Circle was marked by professional and popular success.

Heyse's half dozen novels avoid the political and sociological and tend to emphasize ethical views and goals. Kinder der Welt (1873) attests to his advocacy of "nature" and individual "freedom" as criteria in opposition to religious dogmatism. Im Paradiese (1875) is anti-Philistine in its ethical orientation. The element of classical balance and restraint and his opposition to the tenets and tactics of naturalism emerge in the novel Merlin (1892).

In his 120 novellas Heyse's imaginative and formalistic gifts are most fully realized. Here, too, his emphasis upon freedom, individuality, and instinct comes to the fore, although instinct is not presented as incompatible with spirituality or a sense of duty. Even the humblest or most unfortunate characters are endowed with dignity and nobility, which can provide a redemptive force if the individual remains "true to himself." L'Arrabbiata (1852) is perhaps his most famous novella.

As coeditor, Heyse published two extensive collections of 19th-century novellas: Deutscher Novellenschatz (24 vols., from 1871) and Neuer deutscher Novellenschatz (24 vols., 1884-1888). In his introduction to the former work he describes his "falcon theory" of the novella, advocating the utmost simplicity and clarity of content and form and urging the necessity for an inward conflict culminating in an abrupt turning point or change, which should be represented by a concrete symbol (as the falcon in a Boccaccio story).

Heyse's 60 carefully constructed dramas and many lyrics lack force, but his translations from the Italian poets are admired. In 1910 Paul Heyse received the Nobel Prize for literature. He died in Munich on April 2, 1914.

Further Reading

Georg Brandes's essay "Paul Heyse, " reprinted in his Creative Spirits of the Nineteenth Century, translated by Rasmus B. Anderson (1923), is an enthusiastic appreciation. A balanced view of Heyse as author and theoretician is in E. K. Bennett, A History of the German Novelle (1934; 2d ed. rev. 1961). □