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Johanna Trosiener, the Daughter of a Danzig Merchant and Mother of Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and Writer Luise Adelaide Lavinia Schopenhauer, Reflects on her Childhood and Youth in the 1770s (Retrospective Account)

These pages paint a lively picture of the prosperous and stable world of the merchant class in the urban republic of the great Baltic port city of Danzig, which enjoyed virtual self-government within the Commonwealth of Poland. In the following excerpts, Johanna Schopenhauer (1766-1838) recounts her ambivalent education, which drew her toward higher learning and the arts, but still kept her far enough away to preserve her martial eligibility. Later she suffered an unhappy marriage imposed upon her by her father. Fortunately, however, she was able to develop her literary talents within the marriage, and after her husband’s death she became a notable intellectual in Hamburg, Weimar, and Bonn, and the first female writer in Germany to support herself with her royalties.

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Youthful Life and Scenes from Travels

Johanna Schopenhauer

[ . . . ]

[Lessons at school, from a private tutor, and from a neighbor]

[The preacher of Danzig’s English colony, Dr. Jameson, lived in the house next door.]

[ . . . ]

As I was growing up, Jameson became my teacher, my guide, my advisor, staying by my side, guarding over my young soul, not parting from me until the time came when another man assumed the responsibility to care for me by taking my hand at the altar. [ . . . ]

I was hardly more than three years old, when I was already sent for a few hours to the school located barely two hundred feet from my parent’s house – twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon.

[ . . . ]

Learning to sit still was all that was demanded initially; to begin with, I protested loudly against this unreasonable demand, but no one cared. I had to walk the miserable way to school, though by the second day I already enjoyed walking it, since in addition to me, 20 other children from the neighborhood, boys and girls, were gathered there for the same purpose. [ . . . ]

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