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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remember as long as I live ; how perplexed I often was when
I left you all for a quarter of an hour, to be alone, and to give
free course to my tears. I am really angry with all who on
such a day can allow themselves to be dissatisfied with things
as they are ; on other days people may be angry, and de-
mand reforms, but on the 18th of October we ought only to
rejoice and be glad in the deliverance which God wrought
for us. And when I think of ourselves in particular, what
overflowing pleasure do I see ; only my darling, blessed Ber-
nard's place is empty ! we miss him, and shall miss him till
we go to him." In another letter she says, — " All my anni-
versaries, now that we are so dispersed, are spoilt, and no longer
yield the same enjoyment, for it takes much thought to bring
you all before me now ; still, so long as nothing disturbing comes


between you and my longing after you, I shall rejoice." — "The
empty places at the Christmas table," she writes, " did indeed
mar my joy, but not my gratitude to God, for you, my dear
absent children, and for the persuasion that you have set out
on the good and right way. Though I cannot see you, my
heart is glad in its affection, and especially on dear Christmas-
eve ; still it was a quiet festival, and less happy than usual on
account of our anxiety for Agricola.''— The IGth January was
Matthias' birth-day, and his mother wrote, " How I long to
see you face to face, and to hold you in my arms, tall as you
may be, for maternal love is not appalled by height, and the
child is a child still though he be a man. You, my dear
old Matthias, I would so gladly have with us ; keep well, and
enter on your one-and-twentieth year with joy and energy :
may God be with you, and preserve you, and grant all my
wishes for you, and bless you for evermore, as I believe He
will. I send you the birth-day wish and prayer, with which I
this morning awoke, that you may make it your own. ' thou
Eternal Light and strong Rock, let the light of thy life-giving
word shine upon him, and teach him to know thee aright, and
to call thee Father with his whole heart ; teach him that Christ
is our Lord and Master, and that there is none besides, that
he may seek thee only, and trust in thee with all his strength.'
My beloved child, may God grant it !"





The bodily sufferings to which Caroline had been subject,
ever since the trying scenes of 1818, had been greatly aggra-
vated by the cares and anxieties of the last summer. The
irritability of the nervous system, and the heart disease had
now reached an alarming height ; but her serenity of mind was
undisturbed ; her Christian faith and hope waxed even brighter
and stronger as the body aj^proached its last resting-place. " I
have lately had feelings, thoughts, and views, formerly quite
unknown to me with reference to our earthly life and our
appointed work therein, and in connexion with these, a greater
serenity." This she wrote in the spring of 1820. — And again,
about the same time, " How differently I regard my posi-
tion, now that I am consciously going down the hill, and find
myself so much nearer the end than the beginning of life.
If I am not self-deceived, when I examine myself as in the
sight of God, I find an increase of peace and assurance, and
there are seasons when I am even confident. God grant that
the peace and confidence may be abiding, and not a mere j^lay
of fancy ! God will surely help me. The desire of my heart
is for peace and submission to His will, but I cannot always
master the desire to live here on earth. I have still much


enjoyment and happiness in life, and I have my Perthes." — " It
refreshes my spirit, dear Agnes, to hear, that like me, you are
seeking and finding God in many things that appear insigni-
ficant, but that do reall}' gently stir and rejoice our hearts all
the day long. I cannot say much about them, but I can thank
God, and long for more. Let us only be faithful and earnest in
little things and perhaps, in heaven, great things may be com-
mitted to us." An anxious, doubting state of mind was un-
known to her, and she was not inclined to regard it favourably
in others. "N." she writes, "has left us; he has failed to
discern much that is good here, and also much that is not good
in the circle of his own friends ; I fancy, because here as else-
where, externals cast a veil over the inner-man. He is certainly
a pious man, but his misfortune is that, for the most part, he
has an eye only for what he dislikes in the lives of Christians."
In another letter she says : — " We are anxiously looking for a
man of truth and earnestness to prepare Matilda for confirma-
tion, and, as yet, without success. PI — 's sister has gone from
Riga to Kiel for a year and a half, that her daughter may enjoy
the benefit of Harms' instruction : gladly as I would avail
myself of his teaching for Matilda, I could never have taken
such a step, because it seems to me to involve a distrust of the
Divine power and influence ; and besides, how could one look
other children in the face, whose parents were unable to do so
much for them ?"

That it was possible for a Christian to be, for a longer or
shorter period, depressed by anxiety concerning his spiritual
state, Caroline was well aware, for she had herself experienced
it. " Come to my arms," she wrote in the spring of 1821, to
a deeply dejected friend, "and pour out your heart with all its


hopes and fears, its anxieties and sadness. I understand you,
and have not forgotten my own griefs, but I believe that God
Avill look upon us for good, if even one groan escape from our
breasts. Only we must be willing at every moment to take up our
burden, and to bear what God sends ; and that He often sends
heaviness no one will deny. I cannot say that I have never
murmured, but I have often asked God with tears why He has
weighed me down ; and then I have been strengthened by the
thought that it is all His doing, and cannot be without reason ;
that He knows our anxiety and cannot be offended by it."

Although well acquainted with the cares and sorrows of the
inner-life, a feeling of joy and thankfulness was nevertheless
habitual to Caroline, even when her bodily sufferings were
severe ; the source of this joy she indicates in a letter to her
eldest daughter : — " That you are a happy woman I know,
and I desire with all my heart that you may continue so :
nor do I doubt it ; perplexed you may be, but not unhappy ;
for one who strives from the heart to be resigned to the will of
God, under all circumstances, can never be unliappy." Caro-
line possessed, in a remarkable degree, the power of tracing the
sources of happiness, and of not allowing them to pass by un-
noticed and unenjoyed. On the day preceding the last anni-
versary of her betrothal, which she survived, she wrote : —
" To-morrow will be my day of days, the 1st of May, and gladly
would I wander with my beloved bridegroom amid the hills
and woods, where I might see and hear none but himself, and
might thank God, that, after four-and-twenty years, I can keep
the day with feelings of the most thorough joy and satisfaction.
A few sighs may escape, for my breath is but short ; but joy
shall be continually renewed : yes, certainly, the woods, the


green woods, would be my chosen home ; though, when I look
through the fresh green leaves at the blue waters and
the unclouded sky, all is so beautiful, that It is only with
shame and self-reproach that I can really wish for more.
Such a fulness of spring splendour and beauty, I think I
have never before seen ; the loveliness of the trees and
foliage, grass, and flowers, is inexpressible. And this great
change from death to life has come to pass in a few days, I
might say, in a few hours. When we stand in the sweet sj)ring-
tide, looking through the tall, bright-green trees to the pure
blue sky, one can scarcely realize all the trouble and sorrow
that may be within us and around us : yes, spring is the time
of joy ; and that joy carries my heart upwards to that
bright and happy land, where there shall be no more pain or

When nature was dark and wintry, Caroline had many other
sources of happiness. Her affection for her husband and
children was, above all other earthly things, an inexhaus-
tible fountain of joy and gratitude : — " I must toll you, my
dear Matthias," she wrote in 1821, "that, notwithstanding my
difficulty of breathing, I am not cast down : and, indeed, I have
no reason for being so ; for God overpowers us with blessings
and joys, by making our children happy and prosperous. We
hear nothing but good from Gotha, and we hope that you
also are in the good way, and that God is with you. Matilda
is a sensible though merry child, and has made herself useful,
beyond what one could expect from her age, in the season of
severe sickness ; she delights to go about with me and to take
care of me as far as she is able. Perthes is specially fond of his
little daughter. Eleanora is a nice girl, and her heart grows


full of kindliness and love : and my Andrew is my deliglit from
morning till evening, when he does not happen to be passion-
ate and naughty. My dearest Perthes grows daily in earnest-
ness and grace, as regards his own soul ; towards myself he
could not be better. Can I then do otherwise than thank God
and rejoice?" In a letter to her eldest daughter she says
again, " I must tell you more about your father — how he con-
tinues to gain peace, quietness, and stability, in spite of the
disturbance and confusion by which he is surrounded. I would
that you knew this as surely as I do — it is so comforting and
encouraging to see God's blessing so manifestly resting upon
him. It may be difficult for those who look only at separate
features of his character to realize this ; but I, who am so
thoroughly acquainted with him, know, that year by year he
draws nearer to God, and is working out his own salvation
with earnestness. I call upon you to thank God with me for
having given you such a father, he is almost too dear and good.
If I could only have him a little more, or rather talk with him
a little more ; for I certainly have him wholly — of that I am
persuaded. Nothing in heaven or in earth can surpass genuine
affection ; it will certainly make the happiness of heaven, only
there it will be greater, and purer, and uninterrupted ; and,
according to my present feelings, I should desire even there to
keep my Perthes and to love him." In the autumn she wrote,
" What a constant and profound sense have I of God's mercy,
in the bright hopes He has given me, and to so great an extent
already realized, in and through you all ! You cannot imagine
what bright and blessed hours your father and I enjoy when
we sit down together, to think over this. It is a gift of God's
grace, unspeakably precious, to see our children walking in the


way to heaven, however great may be our fears and anxieties
respecting them ; for God who has begun the good work will
perform it in us all, and will perfect that which concerneth us."
In a letter written on the last day of December, Caroline says,
" One could not have believed it possible to have sailed along
the world's sea of sorrow and suffering, throughout three hun-
dred and sixty-five days, and to find our fragile bark so little
injured. Again, I feel that I cannot be thankful enough ; and
yet how many wishes and petitions are ready for the opening

From the commencement of her married life, Caroline
had longed for more of outward calm and quiet, that her enjoy-
ment of Perthes' society might have been more undisturbed ;
but the course of time convinced her that the bustling life to
which she had been called was a needful and salutary discipline.
"I rejoice with you," she once wrote to her daughter, "that
you have returned to your wonted quiet and peaceful life, and
that I still long with all my heart for quietness and peace ; for
this longing proves to me that my unrest has not injured me.
Who can say that it has not done me good ? I should certainly
never choose to live in a whirl, but God makes all things work
together for our good."

Her anxiety, however, lest the health of Perthes should suffer
from the pressure of business could not be allayed. " Perthes,"
she once wrote, " works more than is good for him. Ah ! if I
could but get him safe out of this tumult ! I can only live
with him in thought, for the worry of incessant toil does not
leave me a single quiet moment with him. But I must not,
and will not complain, for he is in good spirits, and would re-
joice if we could be more together." Ever since Caroline's


eldest dcaugliter had been settled in Gotlia, she had cherished
the hope that, at no very distant period, Pcrtlies would commit
his large business and its unceasing cares to others, and at a
distance from the tumult of the great city retire to Gotlia,
where he might live more to himself and for his family. In
many letters she joyfully alludes to this cheering prospect.
"If God will, we shall come nearer to you and enjoy a common
happiness. Yes, in the depths of my licart, I anticipate that
you, dear children, will be the joy of my old age, as you were
of my youth.'"' And somewhat later she wrote, — "I notice that
Perthes is constantly endeavouring to bring matters to a point,
in order that we may join you ; but when I would express the
delight that this gives me, he grows restive, and says, that I
ought not even to rejoice in my heart, while all is still so un-
certain/' Perthes, in the meanwhile, was no less earnestly
occupied with the hope of deliverance from the wear and tear
of such a business. Thus, in the spring of 1821, he writes to
his eldest daughter and her husband, — " You are indeed privi-
leged in being able to enjoy your youthful years so free from
care ; mine has been a tumultuous life, and it is but seldom
that a quiet hour, unburdened with anxiety, has fallen to my
lot. I would thank God with all humility for His guidance
hitherto, and commit my way to Him for the future. My de-
sire is for quiet and repose. I would not be unemployed ; but
I long to feel at liberty to follow my inclination, and gradually
to obliterate from my heart and mind the world's unrest, that
I may be ready for that time when all reckonings here below
must be cancelled." Caroline's hope to spend the latter years
of her life in quiet union with Perthes and her married daugh-
ter, was not to be fulfilled. The disease that had attacked her


heart and nerves, increased to a painful degree In tlie spring of
1821. "I am restless, and my nerves arc weak and weary,"
she wrote in April, "and my breathing is become very difficult.
This is not a healthy condition, and Dr. Schroedcr docs his
best, but he has not yet found the right medicine." Some weeks
later she writes, " I am now drinking the Geilnauer waters,
and am in the garden from six to eight o'clock ; and happy to
receive any visitors there. I take all sorts of journeys in ima-
gination, and hold long conversations with you, my beloved
children, when I am wandering about alone." Early in June
she was brought to the gates of death by nervous fever, con-
sequent on a severe attack of internal cramp ; and she now
became fully aware of her danger. " I am weary and done,"
she wrote when the danger had passed for a season ; " and if
you should see me, you would feel that my days are numbered.
I o-ive myself up to be nursed and cared for by Matilda, as the
representative of you all. She ministers to me with childlike
love, and with great judgment and caution. I have often had
you by me, dear Matthias, and have wished you good morning
and good night. I thank God that I can think of you with
joy. Once, in my delirium, I thought you were become a
Catholic ; I took it sadly to heart, and now I rejoice the more
that it is not so." .^

Serious thoughts of death had been familiar to Caroline
throughout her whole life. She had always regarded it with
solemn awe, but it had, perhaps, never excited in her mind that
terror with which it is frequently associated even in the minds of
pious men, and of which the majority of people are insensible,
only because wholly given over to frivolity. The letters in
which Caroline refers to the death of those near and dear to

VOL. II. •'


her, are the expression of distress, but never of alarm — she is
peaceful and resigned. Thus, in one of them she says — " This
is another anniversary of death : ten years ago, my beloved
John departed from us. In this long interval I have always,
thank God, been able to love him, but not, alas ! to see and
hear him, and who can tell whether he is still capable of loving
me ? I believe that the relation of mother and child ceases in
heaven ; but God will assuredly so order all things that we
shall still love each other." Again she says, " It is hard for
the survivor, with a heart full of love and yearning, no longer
to hear and see the dear departed one. How deeply and
vividly I feel this when, with my motherly heart, I think of
my beloved children in heaven. I cannot help asking, why
our Heavenly Father has appointed these painful partings ;
and though I receive no answer, I am reassured and com-
forted by the knowledge that it is His will, and that He wills
nothing but 2:ood, even when it docs not seem so to us." In
another letter she writes : — " Old Mrs. N. gently fell asleep yes-
terday. I rejoice to think that she was ready : she could no
longer enjoy anything here below; and her weakness and con-
fusion of mind were, as far as we can judge, a hindrance to the
enjoyment of the presence and consolations of God himself
Now her dormant love is rekindled never to be dimmed by the
thousand trifles that clouded and dogged it here." Again :
'■ I have passed some very serious hours at S.'s deathbed. He
died with wonderful peace and resignation, retaining his con-
sciousness to the last. I rejoiced to look upon the corpse as it
lay in the still repose of death, no longer constrained to cough,
and tortured for want of air. It is remarkable, and I have
often observed, how high and clear death makes the forehead :


even S.'s was very line after death, tliougli certainly it was not
so in life/' On receiving the news of the decease of Count
F. L. Stolberg, in December 1819, Caroline had written to
her eldest daughter, — " The dear, pure spirit will now see
God face to face, of that I am persuaded; but we have one
dear friend less on earth. The last month of his life was
spent in writing a little book on Love : this was a good pre-
paration for the enjoyment of the Eternal Love. May God
enable us all to grow and stand fast in Ilis love ; then we
shall be prepared for all that may happen ! I would so gladly
have ministered to Stolberg in his illness and at his death ;
there is no greater comfort on earth than to see a man die in
full consciousness, committing himself peacefully and joyfully
to the mercy of God in faith. Dear Agnes, we have once seen
this together in my dear father. Do you still remember the
wonderful beauty of his eyes in those last hours, even to tlie
last minute V

But while Caroline did not shrink from the thought of death,
she thoroughly enjoyed life. " When at our outset in life wo
have surmounted one hill, we are apt to think that we have
left all hills behind, and have nothing but smooth walking to
the end of our days," she says to her daughter Louisa ; " at
least I have often felt this ; and then I came to little hills and
great mountains which I must needs cross, and so it will be till
Ave have climbed the last, and laid down our burden. Still,
notwithstanding the hills, life is pleasant and valuable to me,
and were it God's will, I could gladly live among you yet awhile
with my beloved Perthes, especially if he could find a place of
rest where I might be more with him. In that case, I should
indeed wish that my breathing were somewhat more free, so


that I might go about and enjoy life with you." And soon
after,—" It ought not to be so, but the thought of keeping
time in our grasp often occurs. Assuredly God cannot have
less good in store for us in heaven, but that which w^e have
here we see with our eyes, and thus it has a stronger hold on
our hearts than the anticipation of even the better things
awaiting us above. But even here below there are moments
of great and inconceivable assurance and blessedness, if we
could only keep them ; but my special sorrow is, that I am
not at all times master of my own heart, and my greatest com-
fort is, that God knows me perfectly ; and certainly, I desire
far more than I can accomplish."

In the middle of July, Caroline was taken to Wandsbeck, in
order to be away from the bustle of home, and that she might
take the air without going up and down stairs ; she now suf-
fered much from difficulty of breathing and cramp in the chest.
" When I sit still, I am pretty well, and enjoy tlie beautiful
weather, quite forgetting my pain, but the slightest movement
reminds me of it at once." — " It is now three months," she
writes another time, •' since I have been able to do anything
in the house, the kitchen, or the cellar, and this distresses me
greatly. I long indescribably to return to my duties, and to
spare my dear Perthes any further anxiety about my health.
I cannot do any kind of work, not even knit, neither can I
read ; but I feel no tediousncss, and am in very good spirits.
I must not write any more, my dear child. It is not my heart,
but my head that is weary." These were almost the last lines
that she was able to write to her distant children, but her aftec-
tion continued undiminished, and she rejoiced with them, as
warmlv as ever, on the occasion of the birth of her second


grandson in July. " God help those poor creatures," she wrote,
" who have no love in their hearts ; you dear, happy children,
how glad I am to be your mother, and how I rejoice in all
your happiness !" In the last letter to her son at Tubingen,
on the 2d August, she says, — " We passed our wedding-
day very happily at "Wandsbeck ; I went round the beautiful
large meadow many times with my dear bridegroom, sitting
down occasionally, and cannot be thankful enough for this de-
lightful walk. We were alone, and it was many years since I
liad such a walk with my dear Perthes ; our conversation was
very comprehensive and hopeful ; since it is not only the past
but the present which is ours, we thought of you all." But
Caroline's health was not improved by her stay at Wandsbeck :
— " How gladly would I tell you that I am strong and hearty,"
wrote Caroline to Perthes on the 8th August, " but I cannot ;
I do not feel strong. Pleased I am, but not cheerful, though I
might be so, could I sit on my bench in the open air ; the plea-
sure of being out carries me beyond myself, but within doors I
do not so easily forget myself, and my short breath : perhaps
to-morrow God will send the doctor the right thought. My
general health is still good, and the one weakness may yet be
found out. My feelings tell me that I may be perfectly restored,
though my understanding speaks rather differently." A few
days after this Caroline returned to Hamburgh, in order to Ije
near her physician, but the hope of recovery diminished day
by day. Although Caroline was not at this time living in the
immediate expectation of death, she enjoyed a closer commu-
nion with God. The old hymn,* " Lord, I would venture on
tliy word," was her delight. When, through the severity of

* " Herr auf dcin 'Wort soil's sein gewagt." — (.ienuaii.


lier suffeiing's, and the restlessness of fever, she could with
difficult}'' keep before her the contents of the hymn, she would
take up her pen, and write a few verses, in order to impress
tkese breathings of prayer on her mind. Perthes had long
been aware of lier danger. Thus in a letter written some-
Avhat later than this, he writes : — " I have long suffered on her
account, and for many months have been weighed down with
grief. My lonely walks have been spent in endeavouring to
realize the heavy trial that is before me, and, with God's help,
to prepare for it. Ever and anon hope revived, but only to be

Online LibraryClement Theodore PerthesMemoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 36)