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Old Love Stories Retold   By: (1866-1947)

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This is a story of Heinrich Heine and his Mathilda. At present we have only this one chapter/story of this book. This is one chapter of the more complete book by Richard Le Gallienne which contains additional true love tales about other famous people.}

Heine and Mathilde

by Richard Le Gallienne

The love story of Heine and his Mathilde is another of those stories which fix a type of loving. It is the love of a man of the most brilliant genius, the most relentless, mocking intellect, for a simple, pretty woman, who could no more understand him than a cow can understand a comet. Many men of genius have loved just such women, and the world, of course, has wondered. How is it that men of genius prefer some little Mathilde, when the presidents of so many women's clubs are theirs for the asking? Perhaps the problem is not so difficult as, at first sight, it may seem. After all, a man of genius is much like other men. He is no more anxious than any other man to marry an encyclopedia, or a university degree. And, more than most men, he is fitted to realize the mysterious importance and satisfaction of simple beauty though it may go quite unaccompanied by "intellectual" conversation and the value of simple woman goodness, the woman goodness that orders a household so skillfully that your home is a work of art, the woman goodness that glories in that "simple" thing we call motherhood, the woman goodness that is almost happy when you are ill because it will be so wonderful to nurse you. Superior persons often smile at these Mathildes of the great. They have smiled no little at Mathilde Crescence Mirat; but he who was perhaps the greatest mocker that ever lived knew better than to laugh at Mathilde. The abysses of his brain no one can, or even dare, explore but, listen as we will at the door of that infernal pit of laughter, we shall hear no laugh against his faithful little Mathilde. It is not at Mathilde he laughs, but at the precious little blue stocking, who freshened the last months of his life with a final infatuation that still unidentified "Camille Selden" whom he playfully called "la Mouche."

"La Mouche," naturally, had a very poor opinion of Madame Heine, and you need not be a cynic to enjoy this passage with which she opens her famous remembrances of "The Last Days of Heinrich Heine":

"When I first saw Heinrich Heine he lived on the fifth floor of a house situated on the Avenue Matignon, not far from the Rond Point of the Champs Elysees. His windows, overlooking the avenue, opened on a narrow balcony, covered in hot weather with a striped linen awning, such as appears in front of small cafes. The apartments consisted of three or four rooms the dining room and two rooms used by the master and the mistress of the house. A very low couch, behind a screen encased in wall paper, several chairs, and opposite the door a walnut wood secretary, formed the entire furniture of the invalid's chamber. I nearly forgot to mention two framed engravings, dated from the early years of Louis Philippe's reign the 'Reapers' and the 'Fisherman,' after Leopold Robert. So far the arrangements of the rooms evidenced no trace of a woman's presence, which showed itself in the adjoining chamber by a display of imitation lace, lined with transparent yellow muslin, and a corner cupboard covered with brown velvet, and more especially by a full length portrait, placed in a good light, of Mme. Heine, with dress and hair as worn in her youth a low necked black bodice, and bands of hair plastered down her cheeks a style in the fashion of about 1840.

"She by no means realized my ideal Mme. Heine. I had fancied her refined, elegant, languishing, with a pale, earnest face, animated by large, perfidious, velvety eyes. I saw, instead, a homely, dark, stout lady, with a high colour and a jovial countenance, a person of whom you would say she required plenty of exercise in the open air. What a painful contrast between the robust woman and the pale, dying man, who, with one foot already in the grave, summoned sufficient energy to earn not only enough for the daily bread, but money besides to purchase beautiful dresses... Continue reading book >>

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