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Henriette Herz

(1764 – 1847),

Henriette Herz was a Berlin salonnière. The beautiful and highly educated daughter of Benjamin de Lemos, a Portuguese Jewish physician, she married the physician and philosopher Marcus *Herz, 17 years her senior, in 1779. In the 1780s their home became a center of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment learning, attracting young Prussian nobility and reform-minded Jews interested in Marcus Herz's lectures and demonstrations in chemistry and physics and in discussing the new Romantic literature with his beautiful wife. Henriette Herz and her friend Dorothea (Brendel) *Mendelssohn Veit Schlegel, the daughter of Moses *Mendelssohn, formed a Tugendbund (Society of Virtue) with Wilhelm and Alexander von *Humboldt, Karl Laroche, and others to promote friendship and learning. Wilhelm von Humboldt's later efforts on behalf of Jewish emancipation stem in part from his youthful infatuation with Herz. Some of their correspondence is composed in Hebrew script. In the 1790s Herz developed a lifelong friendship with the philosopher and Protestant theologian Friedrich *Schleiermacher. Reading groups among intellectual circles developed into the famous Berlin salons hosted almost exclusively by women such as Herz, Rahel Levin *Varnhagen von Ense, and Sara Levi. Among those who frequented Herz's salon were Friedrich Schlegel, Karl Gustav von Brinkmann, Friedrich Genz, Madame de Genlis, and Jean Paul Richter. Herz's beauty was captured in portraits painted by Anna Dorothea Therbusch (1778) and Anton Graff (1792), and in a bust sculpted by Gottfried Shadow (1783). She knew many languages, including ancient Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and English and in 1799 and 1800 she translated two English travel books into German. Following Marcus Herz's death in 1803, her salon activity tapered off and ended by 1806 with Napoleon's occupation of Berlin. Herz lost her pension and was forced to seek work as a governess; in 1817 she became a Protestant and traveled to Rome (1818–19). Herz spent her later years in reduced circumstances teaching languages and needlework to young women and offering hospitality to Schleiermacher's students. In the 1820s she began a memoir focusing on her youth; wishing to control her posthumous reputation, she burned some of her correspondence. At the end of her life, Herz she gave J. Fuerst access to her remaining papers and spoke with him about her life. Following her death, he published her reminiscences (J. Fuerst, Henriette Herz. Ihr Leben und ihre Erinnerungen (1858)).


M. Davies, Identity or History? Marcus Herz and the End of the Enlightenment (1995); M.E. Goozé, "Posing for Posterity: The Representations and Portrayals of Henriette Herz as 'Beautiful Jewess,'" in: M. Henn and H.A. Pausch (eds.), Body Dialectics in the Age of Goethe. (2003), 67–95; D. Hertz, Jewish High Society in Old Regime Berlin (1988); P. Seibert. Der literarische Salon: Literatur und Geselligkeit zwischen Aufklaerung und Vormaerz (1993).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.