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When the mature man of affairs takes a young girl to wife, he expects to mold her to his nature, but he reckons without his host. Heinrich Schopenhauer’s opposition to his wife’s wishes was not strong enough to crush her–it simply developed in her a deal of wilful, dogged strength.

One winter day in Eighteen Hundred Four the body of Heinrich Schopenhauer was found in the canal at Hamburg.

Arthur was then sixteen years of age–old for his years, traveled, clever–strong in body and robust in health.

In wandering with his parents, he had met Goethe, Wieland, Madame De Stael, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, and many other distinguished people, for his mother was a famous lion-hunter, and wherever they went, the great ones were tracked to their lairs. But however much Madame Schopenhauer indulged in hero-worship, she had no expectations or ambitions for her son. She apprenticed him as a clerk and did her utmost to immerse him in commerce. What she desired was freedom for herself, and the popular plan to gain freedom is to enslave others. Madame Schopenhauer moved to Weimar and opened there a sort of literary salon. She wrote verses, novels, essays, and her home became the center of a certain artistic group. The fortune her husband had left was equal to about forty thousand dollars, one-third of which was to go to Arthur when he was twenty-one. The mother had the handling of it all until that time, and as the funds were well invested, her income was equal to about two thousand dollars a year.

A handsome widow, under forty, with no encumbrances to speak of, and a fair income, is very fortunately situated. Indeed, a great writer has recently written an essay showing that widows, discreetly bereaved, are the happiest creatures on earth.

Young Schopenhauer, at his desk in Hamburg, grieved over the death of his father. That which is lost becomes valuable–bereavement softens the heart. The only tenderness that is revealed in the writings of Schopenhauer refers to his father. He affirms the sterling honesty of the man, and lauds the merchant who boldly states that he is in business to make money, and compares him with the philosophers who clutch for power and fame and yet pretend they are working for humanity. When Schopenhauer was past sixty, he dedicated his complete works to the memory of his father. As nothing purifies like fire, so does nothing sanctify like death–the love we lose is the only love we keep.

Mathematics, bills and balance-sheets were odious to young Schopenhauer. He reverenced the memory of his father, but his mother had endowed him with a strong impulse for expression. He wrote little essays on the backs of envelopes, philosophized over his bills, sneaked out of the countingroom the back way to attend the afternoon lectures by the great Doctor Gall, and finally, boldly followed his mother to Weimar, that he might bask in the shadow of the mighty Goethe. It was shortly after this that he sat in a niche of Goethe’s library, musing, sad and solitary, while a gay throng chattered by. Some young women, seeing him there, laughed, and one asked, “Is it alive?” And Goethe, overhearing the pleasantry, rebuked it by saying, “Do not smile at that youth–he will yet eclipse us all.”

At Weimar there was no greeting for Schopenhauer from his mother–she welcomed all but her son. Unfortunately for her, she put herself on record by writing him letters. Scathing letters are all right, but they should be directed and stamped, then burned just before they are trusted to the mails. To record unkindness is tragedy, for the unkind word lives long after the event that caused it is forgotten. Here is one letter written by Madame Schopenhauer that this methodical son saved for posterity:

My Dear Son:

I have always told you it is difficult to live with you. The more I get to know you, the more I feel this difficulty increase. I will not hide it from you: as long as you are what you are, I would rather bring any sacrifice than consent to be near you. I do not undervalue your good points, and that which repels me does not lie in your heart; it is in your outer, not your inner being; in your ideas, your judgment, your habits; in a word, there is nothing concerning the outer world in which we agree. Your ill-humor, your complaints of things inevitable, your sullen looks, the extraordinary opinions you utter, like oracles, none may presume to contradict; all this depresses me and troubles me, without helping you. Your eternal quibbles, your laments over the stupid world and human misery, give me bad nights and unpleasant dreams….