Clement Theodore Perthes.

Memoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) online

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simple heart, has not been falsified. This was the impression
that my heart received on that evening, when I, properly


speaking, first Scaw liim ; that, indeed, was the day of my real
betrothal. I can never thank God enough for his aiFection.
When, yesterday evening, at six o'clock, we sat down to tahle,
Perthes was so wearied and depressed, that it made us sad to
see him, but when the tree was lighted, he became as lively and
as frolicsome as the youngest child." At Easter Caroline
writes, " God give you a joyous festival — and why should He
not ? since He has made every day a festival by the deep and
abiding love that He has put into your heart. That He can
give us nothing better even in eternity is certain ; only we
cannot yet understand the greatness of our blessedness, because
we know so little at present of pure love to God, although
we have some foretaste of it in the delight we feel in the out-
goings of our feeble love towards our fellow-creatures. The
children are all gone out, and I meant to read a sermon of
Taulerus, but you and William, your happiness and your hopes,
have stirred my heart so deeply, that I have been unable.
Dear William ! I feel real joy and happiness in having so
nursed, and cherished, and brought up Agnes for you ; may
God grant you the same pleasure in your children that he has
hitherto given us in ours. More I cannot wish you, for I know
no more. I have, to my great delight, just opened the balcony
door for the first time this year, and am quite transported with
all that the sweet spring breathes, and with all that it reveals
to eye and ear. The little birds know not how to leave off
singing and rejoicing, and I would sing and rejoice with them."
Ever since the autumn of 1818, Caroline had cherished the
hope of visiting her daughter in Gotha in the course of the
following spring. Accordingly, on the 2od of April Perthes and
Caroline, with four children, set out from Hamburgh, commit-


ting their second son to the charge of his grandmother in Wands-
beck, and leaving the eklest in charge of the house. " We arrived
safe, and well, and happy," wrote Caroline from Gotha ; " the
journey was bitterly cold, but our inward joy kept us so warm,
that the external cold could not touch us. The postilions were
all good and steady except one, who had a drop in his head ;
but just as we were beginning to be uneasy, we met another
posting carriage, and by changing horses got quit of him.
Both the little ones behaved very well, and by their merri-
ment and their lively observation of all that they saw and
heard, and their surprise at the sight of mountains, trees,
and rocks, greatly increased our pleasure, although the charge
of such young travellers was not without inconvenience : I was
obliged to hold one in each arm during the whole night, to
keep them from the cold, and soften the jolting of the car-
riage. When we came near Gotha, I could scarcely restrain
my feelings, and on Tuesday the 27th of April, we arrived.''
After Caroline's return to Hamburgh with her husband and chil-
dren, in the beginning of June, the weeks she had spent with
her daughter were a source of grateful remembrance. " Since
I have seen you in your own house," she writes, " I have lost
the feeling of entire separation, and really live with you again ;
and if your heart yearn after me, you will often find me. The
happy remembrance of the days that I have spent with you so
lately prevails even over the pain of separation."

A year of trouble and disquietude of all sorts awaited Caro-
line on her return from Gotha ; she had found her second son
Clement seriously ill in Hamburgh, and it was many months
before her anxiety on his account was in any degree abated.
To her eldest son Matthias, who was passing the holidays at


Gotha, she wrote at this time, — " Graze, not to satiety, but till
you are hungry, on the beauties of nature ; salute the rocks at
Schwarzburg, and go before noon to the Trippstein, when the
sun shines aslant through the firs, and reflect that your father
and I have also been there, have thanked God and rejoiced.
In all my present sorrow, the remembrance of that sweet spot
can cheer and solace me ; in such a place one can rise higher,
at least more easily, than in one's own room. As for the hours
of sore and burning trial, who knows and who can reckon
the benefit we derive from them ! They are not appointed in

On the 14th of August, in the midst of her anxiety for her
sick son, the news of the birth of her first grandchild reached
her, and Caroline wrote, — " Oh that I had a thousand tongues,
and a thousand voices that might strive together in praising-
God for what He has done for you ! May God himself help
me to thank Him, that He has heard my prayer : I liavo
always the feeling that we can pray fervently much longer
than we can praise ; so that our thanksgivings are all too
short compared with our supplications. If I could escape
from the anxiety and sorrow which surround me, I should
be still nearer to you ; but my heart is divided between joy
and sadness, and a divided heart brings labour and unrest.
You will be astonished to find in how many new and pleasur-
able aspects the child will appear to you, if God grant His
blessing, — and this He certainly never denies to those who
honestly seek it. Pray, then, that God may send His angel
to guide your little one through the joys and sorrows of life,
and to be very near him in the time of trial and the hour of




Scarcely was Caroline's anxiety for her invalid son removed,
when her repose was again interrupted by a proposal for the
liand of her second daughter, Louisa, who had remained at
Gotha to nurse her sister. The young suitor, Agricola, was
scarcely known to her, and the decision was difficult. " How
could we commit so great a charge," wrote Caroline, " to one
whom wo know not ? — it is always a trial to give up a beloved
(■liild to any one, and we are now called on to do it to a stranger.
I know not where to find counsel or help ; it seems to me the
greatest trial of my life." The confidence manifested by the
daughter induced the parents to leave the decision to her alone:
and when Agricola became known to them through his letters, all
anxiety vanished. In the middle of November 1819, Louisa re-
turned to Hamburgh for the winter. " We are anticipating,"
wrote Caroline, " a right pleasant winter with our dear happy
bride." The anticipation was realized. Tlie invalid son mean-
while had made such progress, that he was able to be removed to
Wandsbeck for some months for change of air. Caroline's letters
at this time are filled again with joy and thankfulness ; but
the present was sometimes overcast by the prospect of part-
ing, not only with the daughter, but also with the eldest son,


wlio was to enter tlie University at Easter. " It often dis-
tresses me greatly/' wrote Caroline, " that my young Louisa
is so early called upon to jilay an independent part, and to
do without me ; still I have a firm confidence in her haj)-
piness. Young people who arc so sincerely attached, and
who express their affection so simply and naturally as these
two, are doubtless sound at heart." — " The welcome New
Year," she wrote in the end of December 1819, "lies heavy on
my heart, since it is to separate me from two of my beloved
children. I know that I ought not to be so, yet I am quite
troubled and oppressed. Rejoice in your sweet infant ; the joy
will indeed be of a nobler kind when the fondling is over, but
never wish a day away ; enjoy that blessed season of maternity
during which you have your child in your arms, and it cannot
do without you, but stretches out its little arms, and lovingly
embraces you, " To-day," she writes again soon afterwards,
" Louisa's trousseau is packed up. God loveth a cheerful
giver : He certainly loves Perthes, then ; for he gives almost
too freely, and too cheerfully, what it has cost him so much to
gather. Life is very serious to me now ; the past and the
future stir my soul, but my constant comfort is in the lively
and steadfast feeling that God guides and leads us for our
good ; only we should not invade His office and cater for our-
selves : but this I have never consciously done, at least never
desired to do."

At the beginning of April 1820, both children left the pater-
nal roof, the son for the university, and a week later, the young
couple, wdio had been married on the 12th of April, for Gotha,
accompanied by Perthes, and his son Clement. " I could not
write yesterday," says Caroline, "the tumult in my soul was so

VOL. II. 2


great that I could not command my feelings sufficiently. Dear
Agnes, what a powerful thing is a mother's heart ; yes, I believe
that the love of parents is stronger than the love of children ;
what wishes, hopes, fears, and anxieties, stir within me ! A
steadfast feeling of the presence of God supported me at the
parting, and lightened that sad hour ; and while my heart is
sorrowful, I know and feel that all is right, and that we have
much cause for thankfulness ; what good would the outward
presence of my children do mo if their hearts were not with
me ? If here below we must part and give up, it is only that
we may learn to submit our wills, and set forward on the road
to our proper home." Perthes had passed some weeks in
Leipzic, and on his return to Hamburgh had quite unex-
pectedly brought his eldest daughter and his little grandchild
from Gotha with him. " As soon as I heard the post-horn,"
wrote Caroline, " I flew to the door, and when it was opened
Perthes put the little prattling healthy child into my arms ;
my Agnes was also there, and it was a joyful hour indeed. For
a long while I could not compose myself, and forgot that Per-
thes was there too, which afterwards vexed me much." — " You
may imagine," she writes a few days later, " how happy I am
with my child and grandchild ! I have not yet settled down
into quiet enjoyment, my delight is so tumultuous. God be
praised for awarding me so much ! " After a stay of five weeks
Agnes returned home with her husband.

Caroline had now three absent children, each of whom ex-
pected letters from her regularly, and they were seldom disap-
pointed ; she kejjt up a constant correspondence with her
second daughter during the honey-moon, and the transition
period between it and the settled repose of matrimonial life.


" That you are so happy and contented with your Agricohi is
only what I expected, and I hope better and greater things still
for you, for these are only gilded weeks which, however, I do
not grudge you ; but it I'equires many a serious hour, and many
an earnest wish with and for each other, before real happiness
and confidence are established. Genuine affection is the way
to this end ; perfect openness towards each other, at all times,
and in all things, is also a great help. Strive to have com-
mon objects of pursuit, and to support each other, when either
seems ready to faint, and let your first aim be, to draw nearer
to God, and to assist each other in becoming more like Him.
Do not be disturbed by occasional differences of opinion with
regard to the highest things, only be true to each other, and
seek only the truth ; you will thus, though by devious paths,
be sure to meet again. I know that I have always been in
earnest, and that I often have been in difficulties, but I also
know, that, at last, I have always reached the same goal with
my beloved Perthes — the how and when do not concern others,
and no one has any right to inquire." — " You can well be-
lieve/' wrote Caroline soon afterwards, " that I enjoy nothing
more truly than what you tell me of your happy affection. But
the human heart is a strange thing ; when you wrote lately
that you could not understand how you could have hitherto
been happy without your Agricola, I felt as if you had done
me an injury. I am, at every moment, conscious of loving you
with my whole soul, of hoping and wishing for you, and of doing
you all the good I can ; more than this I cannot do, neither
can your husband ; why, then, should you not have been happy
with me ? Can you tell me ? Agricola has loved you for only
one year, while I have loved you for eighteen, and with all


my lieavt. Is not tliis, then, very wrong- of you, and can you
say that it is not wrong ? I know not what to reply except
that it was just so with me when I was married to Perthes,
and that I thank God that you now cause me the same grief
which I tlien caused my parents."

Hours of home-sickness were not wanting to the absent
daughter. " You cannot wish yourself Ly my side," wrote
Caroline, " so much as I wish myself by yours. But remember
one thing, would I not often be in the way when Agricola
comes home ? Can you deny this ? I see you blushing ; but
do not blush, and do not vex yourself about it, my dear
Louisa ; I am contented, and can thank God that I am now
only secondary with you, Avhile I love you as well as if I
had the first place in your heart." — " That you find it hard to
bear the loneliness, and the distance from us, especially when
Agricola is not with you, I can very well understand," she
wrote. " I myself, when the children are gone out for a half
holiday, am as stupid and dull as an owl by daylight, but one
must not yield to this, which happens, more or less, to all
young wives. The best relief is work, engaged in with interest
and diligence ; work, then, constantly and diligently, at some-
thing or other, for idleness is the devil's snare for small and
great, says your grandfather, and he says true. I do not mean
that there is anything wrong in your longing after us when
Agricola is absent, my own dear child, only you must strive to
retain your composure; and yet, if you should be overcome by
filial yearning, Agricola will not be angry withyou. You arequite
right to tell him everything that you think and feel at all times ;
where truth and affection abide, joy and happiness are not long-
absent." — And again : " Is it not true that the life of a house-


keeper is more stirring than that of a young girl at home ? It
is quite right that you should take pleasure in your little house-
hold affairs, and enjoy your clean pretty house ; and I can see
you, in the afternoons, looking and listening for your hushand,
when you expect him from the courts. How gladly would I
sometimes be behind the door when he comes in ! Fancy me
on Saturdays looking through your rooms, your presses, and
your shelves, and praising you when all is neat and in order/'
And in another letter: — "I delight to find that you take
pleasure in all the little matters of your housekeeping ; great
events do not often come under our management, but if we are
observant and watchful, we find our appointed work, and we
liave more need to pray for a heart to enjoy our blessings, than
for a larger sliare of them." — " You are quite right, my dear
Louisa, to visit your neighbours occasionally, but it is still
better that you prefer staying at home. God grant that you
may ever find the same pleasure in your pretty room I" In
order to sympathize fully with her daughter's interests, Caroline
desired to receive more detailed accounts of her daily life than
Louisa was accustomed to give. " You have not yet got into
the i^roper way of writing, jou tell me only of things in general,
and great events, but, my dear child, I want to know the most
minute particulars ; you always tell me how dearly you love
Agricola, but I should also like to know why you love him.
We understand a man's character best from his conduct in little
circumstances, and in daily life. Don't always seek for some-
thing of importance to write ; you are writing for my motherly
heart, to which everything is important that brings you more
vividly before me. Write, then, without too much considera-
tion, about trifles and anything whatever; great events con-


stitute tliG life, but trifles, the interest of a correspondence.
You know tliat Agnes fills her letters with cabbages and
turnips, and so gives me unspeakable pleasure. Man, here
below, consists of two parts, and thus, petty things, not
paltry recollect, are part of our existence." — Again : " I am
sorry that you tore up your letter because it was not written in
a happy mood ; next time send it me just as it is. I know as
well as you do, that the heart is not always in the same frame ;
we should, indeed, endeavour to be at all times master of our-
selves, but it takes a good many trials before we attain to this ;
and I remember how many uneasy moods and moments I my-
self had to pass through."

When, in the course of time, the daughter made that dis-
covery which every young wife has to make for herself, viz., that
even in her new position, the earnestness of life is not want-
ing, Caroline wrote, — " Yes, dear child, God's gift of true love
grows and improves under all circumstances, and although we
would gladly escape the sweat of the brow, we soon see that it
is necessary, and a part of our earthly discipline ; all men have
felt, that as life brings us greater happiness, it also becomes
more earnest. Thank your Agricola with all your heart for
sharing his cares with you, rather than concealing them in
order to spare you. If a wife cannot actually remove, she can
often lighten care, and sweet and bitter should be shared by man
and wife. I might indeed desire nothing but joy and happiness
for you, but I do not at all despair about you. Men's characters
differ greatly, and with them God's means of promoting their
welfare. Your father and I had many struggles, which were
often very painful ; but wdien I look back, I see clearly that all
sci'ved to unite us, and make us better acquainted with each


other, and that is a result which can never be bought too dear."
— "You are quite right, dear Louisa, to be on your guard against
all sources of irritation. It is great and noble to attain to a state
of mind which does not allow affection to be saddened or inter-
rupted by the trifles of daily life. A strong determination against
this must be rooted in the heart ; but I have learnt from good
old rran9ois de Sales, and from experience, that there are
many things which, though they are not to be lightly regarded,
must be lightly handled. We must not oppose an irritable ten-
dency by force, otherwise the irritation may only change its
form. To oppose one's own irritability with greater irritabi-
lity, is disturbing to others, and may embitter our own hearts,
but I am not at all anxious about you ; you never had a fretful
disposition, and a loving heart is proof against it; but you can-
not have recourse to any one who will understand you so well
as I do, for I have felt it all myself."

In November 1820, her daughter was severely tried by the
illness of her husband, who was in great danger for many
weeks from nervous fever, and had a very slow recovery.
" Your father and I think of you day and night," wrote Caro-
line, when the crisis was over: "we feel but too deeply how
painful it is to have a child whom we cannot soothe and make
happy. These have been very sad days for us ; it was quite a
new thought to me that I might have my own dear child in
my house and in my arms, and yet that all my affection could
neither satisfy nor comfort her." Soon afterwards she wrote,
— " Let us first thank God for having preserved your Agri-
cola, and having given you trust and confidence in time of need,
and then pray for his further recovery. We need neither be
ashamed nor vexed that we are always ready to ask ; God


knows better than wc do that we can do nothing without
liim." When the invalid was beginning to recover his strength,
she wrote, — " We no longer feel the burden, we only remem-
ber it, and now rejoice with you in the coming spring, and the
warm sunbeams ; although the spring-time of youth is past for
us, not so, thank God, the eternal spring, which still grows
fresher as we grow older. Let your heart beat in sympathy with
tlie renewed spring-time of nature, which makes us young, and
fresh, and gladsome, like the little variegated tom-tits in the
oak-tree behind my window. Ever rejoice in the spring and in
life, dear Agricola, and be thankful that you are preserved to
my Louisa and to us all."




While the correspondence with the married daughters
devolved mainly on the mother, Perthes adding now and then
a kind word on special occasions, that with the eldest son,
Matthias, who had been studying theology at the University
of Tubingen since Easter 1820, was kept up alike by botli
parents. The doubts and difficulties suggested to the son by
the study of theology, were submitted to the father. Perthes
always sympathized with his son's inexperience, and en-
deavoured to allay his misgivings. " I have been reading
over many of your letters a second time,'' he once wrote,
" and am more and more convinced that it would not be well
to answer your earnest communications in detail by a dis-
cussion of your views. In the case of a striving, energetic youth
like yourself, months are more fruitful than years are to an older
man ; the scales are moving up and down, and so it should
be. One thing rectifies another in the course of the student's
own hearty efforts, which God always blesses. This is better
for you than listening to an old man's experience, which must
always be somewhat strange, even though it be your own
father's." — " I cannot and dare not enter into the subjects

VOL. II. 3


wliicli you mention. It would ill become the man whose mind
is matured by age, and whose intellectual training has been
so diiferent, to set bounds which might impede the young
theologian in his career ; when your advancing age brings you
nearer to my own, we shall readily understand one another.
You say, ' The God of the many does not satisfy my yearnings,
I want one to whom I can put up my petitions in the hope
that He will be moved by my humility to grant me health and
strength.' These are your own words ; keep to them, my dear
son." In another letter, Perthes explained his views of the
difference between youth and age more fully : — " Between
youth and age there is a wall of partition, which a man
does not observe till he has passed it. The transition is
generally made in middle life, but passes unnoticed amid the
necessary cares and labours of one's calling. All at once man
finds himself upon an eminence, and sees much that is varied
and cheerful behind and beneath him. This is a decisive mo-
ment for the soul, for now arises the question, whether he shall
give himself entirely to God, and turn away from the world, not
with contempt, — for it has been his training school, but with a
glad contcntedness ; or, whether he shall again mingle with
the many things that should be left behind, and thus become
not only a transgressor, but a laughing-stock in the eyes of su-
perior intelligences. Generally, when a man has passed through
the season of wayward minority, and stands erect in manhood,
he asks himself, what means all this ? his reply must be, all
below is vain and fleeting ; true joy and peace are only to be
found in spiritual life. I have done many things and perhaps
well, but where is the fruit of the blossoms which looked so
promising ? ' The ideals have disappeared,' but not the faculty


of labour; and therefore, clothed with humility, 'forwards/ I
say, to suffer and to do. This is to become a master in the bu-
siness of life ; but it is vain to expect that this can be attained
without passing through an apprenticeship and the Wander-
jahre. Here it is that so many well-disposed youths of the
present day make shipwreck. They affect a simplicity, i:)lain-
ness, and stoutness of heart, which almost look like the repose
and dignity of age ; they harden their bodies, adopt severity
of manners, and .-re modern Stoics. But this is an unnatural
condition for youth, and it will not be generally found a safe
one : this contempt of the world and of the true riches of

Online LibraryClement Theodore PerthesMemoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 36)