Collection: Dorothea Handel (Schuhmacher) Family Letters

Author: Gottfried Handel

Recipient: Dorothea Handel (Schuhmacher)

Description: Letter from Gottfried Handel to Dorothea Handel (Schuhmacher), February 6, 1868.

Gottfried Händel to Dorothea Schuhmacher, February 6, 1868

English Text

Bretten, 6 February 1868. St. Dorothy’s Feast

Greetings to all of you in the name of God’s Fatherly Good Will. I take up my pen to write to you briefly, in sadness and pain. In early June your dear mother, my companion, became ill with a strong convulsive cough and intestinal fever. I was so busy taking care of her, every two hours food, medication, washing handkerchiefs and drying bedding, that I had no time to cook for myself, and barely had time to grab a piece of bread to eat. I had to have others do all the work.

Our dear mother spoke of you, and wanted me to beg you, in the name of God, and the Wounds of Holy Jesus, to raise your dear children in the way of Christ and the Holy Trinity. No one needs anything but this. I can’t write everything that she demanded.

Later this year it will be nine years since your mother came down with the worst dysentry while harvesting potatoes. [She was sick for four months?] Then, on Candlemas, the joint sickness began, and she couldn’t do anything all summer. Two years ago, while carrying a basket of corn, she was run over by a [cart?] in the ditch, so she had more to suffer. Last winter, she had three bad fingers, and I had a swollen right arm, all the way from the armpit to the fingertips, which lasted for four months. This […?][1] in my arm is still a consequence of the fire on St. Stephen’s Day 1832. I often had to eat with my left hand. For the fourth winter in a row, Mother struggled with the convulsive cough. Beginning in September it became consumption. Since August she had four episodes of swollen feet, and her lower abdomen was also swollen. Right before New Year, her feet and limbs suddenly swelled up hard overnight, it extended up to her chest, and it was often thought the end was near, around ten to twelve days before she died.

She passed away under my hands and eyes, accompanied by prayers to God and the Savior, at 10 o’clock in the morning on 25 January, Conversion of St. Paul Day. The funeral was on 27 January at 10 o’clock. She herself often said that she was being treated like a royal person. I brought her whatever she wanted, and hardly a day passed without her getting plenty of good food. She often thanked us in tears, and asked the Dear Savior to reward us in Blessed Eternity. Konrad Walz brought me money every week, a total of 26 Gulden, and donations of about 6 Gulden. On January 30 the aldermen[2] assessed the household items, and I told them that Konrad Walz held power-of-attorney in your place. They led us to believe some things, so he allowed it, and I did too.

The costs of employment have been high because of the freedom of occupation.[3] So I have to let them do with me as they want [illegible] as the time [illegible]

[note in margin]

Age 66 on 8 May!

[new page]

I also want to report that right now I cannot sell the land because there are delays of all sorts and only half could be paid out. Perhaps it will get better. If I need someone to work for me without boarding, I will have to pay a higher wage. Clothing items are better than in the year ’54.

We lived humbly and had a clear conscience, but our dear mother was often too tolerant with other people. Often people would say to her, “you are being stupid, your daughter is gone, and the father soon, this is Satan and the Enemy.” It is true that for you it is better, but not so for me. Anyone who knows the situation and can see through it, recognizes this. So I beg you, as your human father, to write to me right away with your true intentions, whether you want to come back home or not.

Our dear mother kept hoping there would be a letter, for my sake. Everytime, I gave her the answer that God’s gracious will shall be done, but it cannot be forced. To cross the ocean [for the 8th] costs money. I could write so much more. Please take this to heart.

I send my greeting as father and grandfather. I can’t see any more,

Johann Gottfried Handel

[1] Unclear; might translate as “general discomfort.”

[2] “Waisenrichter,” community members charged with assisting in estate and guardianship matters.

[3] Freedom of occupation became law in Baden in 1862.

Original text