Collection: Dorothea Handel (Schuhmacher) Family Letters

Author: Dorothea Handel (Schuhmacher)

Recipient: Gottfried Handel

Description: Letter from Dorothea Handel Schuhmacher to her father, Gottfried Handel, January 15, 1870.

Dorothea Schuhmacher to Gottfried Händel, January 15, 1870

English Text

Rome, 15 January 1870

Dear Father!

God’s strength and help to both of us for the New Year.

Beloved Father, I know I have not written to you in a long time - yes, there is always a reason, I have been sickly for some time, but I have had to work hard, sometimes do the work of two.

Late last year, on 5 September, Ernst became very sick, then on Tuesday Heinrich did, on Wednesday Georg, and the following Monday Luise. So I was mostly alone to do all the work, labor during the day, and sit up with the children at night. Peter always went to his workshop. Johann was 22 miles away, and out of fear he might get sick too, I did not call for him to come home. As soon as the first child got better, Karl got sick. We had corn and buckwheat in the field, when the cattle got through the fences and hedges, and ruined the crops. I could not leave the sick children to go out and fix the fences, and Mister[1] Peter Schuhmacher did not care to stay home and do it himself; so it went, and we just let it go.

Finally I got quite sick from all the work and sleepless nights. I could barely move my head or limbs. The children recovered but I did not feel like getting up. Johann came home and helped me a lot. But everyone else was weak and could not work. In all those five weeks, my dear Mr. Schuhmacher did not care to ask me once how I felt, or talk to me in the way couples do. We couldn’t work and he was constantly angry. I bore it all, although my heart was breaking, and finally on a nice day we all went out to help with the potato harvest, although we could barely stand or walk. The Good Lord strengthened us and we did what we could. Then it became cold with rain, snow, and ice, and we had to stop.

By early November the weather was nice again, but the ground was wet and cold, and I caught a cold. It had been three months since my periods had stopped. I didn’t know if there would be more or if they had stopped completely. In this country, most women have already stopped theirs [at this age?]. So I did not mention anything, but in the third month, I said that I was tired and thought I might be getting sick. I got no answer. I prayed, and at 4 o’clock on the morning of my birthday, I started bleeding. All day I had no pain, but that night and the following day it was so bad that I often wished someone would stay with me. He came home at night and did not ask or say anything. I cried and whimpered during the night, but all he did was curse at me that he couldn’t sleep. So I let it go, and the next day I had someone come to help. This woman warmed me and made me tea. That evening at 7 o’clock I started bleeding heavily, and there were lumps, and it was black and [vesessen?]

[left margin, first page:]

This was written from my bed, and shared with you, and perhaps Conrad, in confidence. No one else should know but you two.

This letter is difficult news for you, but before I die you must know about it. The devil shall not trick you into thinking I had a good life.

[1] “Mister” in a derogatory sense.

Original text