A BOARDING SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, GERMANY 1800.
From the memoir of the Weimar court painter Luise Seidler (1786-1866):
At the age of fourteen, Luise enrolled in Stieler’s boarding school, where she made the acquaintance of a fellow pupil, Fanny Caspers.
Her rich fiancé had entrusted Fanny to the school to accustom her to a regulated life and to teach her the economics of housekeeping. At the end of that term he was going to marry her.
Luise and Fanny soon became close friends.
Fanny had lived the preceding years with her sister, a singer and actress at the court theatre in Weimar. Life there had been free of constraints. The bubbly young woman found the severe house rules burdensome and soon tried to reform them. When we put on our grey overshoes to go on the regulation walk, Fanny cried with mock indignation: What? Are you bear-ladies that you want lumpish feet? Her words fell on fertile ground, and thereafter we strenuously resisted putting on those overshoes that made our feet look clumsy.
Fanny treated her fiancé badly. She asked Luise to answer his letters on her behalf and to tell him:
She couldn’t think of any reply to his boring declarations of love except that he should send her sufficient pink taffeta for two dresses…The weak fool fulfilled the senseless and wasteful request of his bride to win her heart, which he clearly did not possess. A few months later he appeared at the school with his arm bandaged. He said he had fought a duel for Fanny’s sake.
But apparently it was an act he put on to gain her love. The headmistress interfered, and Fanny confessed in tears that she couldn’t stand the man and accepted him only because she was desperately poor. Thereupon the headmistress offered her free instruction and board for one year to train her as a teacher. She also assumed the delicate task of informing the man that his fiancée wished to be released from their arrangement, and he departed with a heavy heart. That was the end of the affair, and Fanny began to blossom.
More on Luise’s adventures in my next post on Thursday.
(Source: Luise Seidler. Erinnerungen und Leben; my trans.)
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