The grief prompted by the early passing of this man is universal. While the entirety of cultivated Germany mourns the loss of one of its most brilliant writers, Huber’s friends lament the loss of one of the noblest and charming human beings. A letter I just received from his spouse enables me to provide some news about the final days of this unforgettable man in whom I, too, have lost a friend whose memory will remain sacred to my heart. — [Siegfried August] Mahlmann.
Huber’s Final Days
Ludwig Ferdinand Huber died on 24 December of last year, at the beginning of his 41st year, from a complete destruction of his lungs that, utterly without prior signs, tore him away after four weeks of inexpressible suffering. He united in himself the best character traits of two nations, light, chuckling French spirit, the refined spirit that enables grace to become life’s accompanist, with German acumen and diligence.
His fate, which over time led to complex engagements, attested over time the worth of his character as both citizen and human being. He left behind no enemies, having never had even a single one. There were those who reproached him, those who — perhaps for but a short time — thought it necessary to complain about him, yet even these appreciated him, and his life of goodness reconciled them. Never has the earth more lightly covered a mortal human being; solely tears of love, pure as the morning dew that coaxes flowers from his hillock, are what now moisten his sacred locale.
In September and October of last year, he saw his hometown again after ten years absence, or at least the setting of his childhood and youth, namely, Leipzig (his place of birth was Paris).  It is to his credit that his passing awakens heartfelt regret, and that the grief of those he left behind attests how ardently moved are those who knew the youth and only recently saw the man again whom time and fate had shaped.
And in the fullness of health, with a deceptive appearance of vigor, he also visited part of northern Germany for the first time before returning to his beloved Swabia, to the service of his beneficent prince, under an honored, uncommonly gifted superior, in order to continue living wholly for his duty, wholly for the purest domestic happiness.
In Halle the venerable mother of Georg Forster thanked him for the well-being and successful raising or her two grandchildren, Huber’s stepdaughters [Therese and Claire Forster], whom he once received from Forster’s own hands and thereafter cared for with the loyalty of a father.
With the blessing of the now similarly deceased matron, and heartened by the love of her worthy children, he hastened to Göttingen, where he made the acquaintance of the father of his wife [i.e., of Therese], the venerable Heyne; the noble wife; the large family of this noble man was delighted to have the opportunity to thank the beloved son [i.e., Huber], the charming brother-in-law for the happiness and good fortune of their daughter [i.e., Therese], their sister.
The seventy-eight-year-old man [i.e., Heyne] finally saw himself reconciled with the fate of his beloved daughter [see Therese’s disingenuous letter to her father on 22 March 1793 (letter 121a)], and that of his grandchildren – his only grandchildren – secured.
Happy in the purest awareness of encountering love and respect wherever he went, this best of spouses, best of fathers returned to the circle of his family. He emphasized several times to his family that this journey was in fact an investment he made for his health. During the last quarter of November, he suddenly felt a physical indisposition, though at first it seemed to be but a catarrh. After two weeks of inexplicable cessation of all energy, however, it turned into a horrible condition of breast cramps and suffocation in which he languished toward death for thirteen days, till he finally laid his precious head into the peace of the grave.
The gentle spirit of inner peace that characterized his life continued at his side right up until death itself. Not a single expression of impatience came from this man who otherwise was quite sensitive to physical pain. From the very first moment when the terrible struggle began, from 11 till 24 December, he suffered with composure, profoundly grateful for the care he received, and in isolated moments of lesser torment his childlike, cheerful spirit flickered up yet in gentle but pointed jest. Charitable nature dulled his feeling amid this suffering, and flattered him in lighter moments yet with hope even up to only a few hours before his death.
His beloved children came to him often without him seeming to behold them in pain. He did not inquire about them, and only during the final night did he twice ask, restlessly, in his darkened thoughts, about his future son-in-law, the betrothed of his younger stepdaughter;  for it was on this young man that his hopes for the happiness of that survivor rested.
These questions were the only thing that suggested to his wife [Therese herself], who alone was responsible for his care, that he did indeed suspect that death was near. He took the most arduous medications with unprecedented stoicism, grateful for the beneficent stroke of fortune of having in his physician one of the most sensitive human beings and an ardent, noble friend.
[Ed. note:] Here two representative illustrations of attendants and a woman at the side of a dying man (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki,  O grosses Wesen! ; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.497;  Heiliger Herr Jesus, sei uns gnädig, rief hier der ehrliche Pater Vinzent [ca. 1742–1830]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 )
Four days before his death, he spoke with a sense of sacred serenity that felt no shame at the beauty of human softness and gentleness. His wife found in the sublimity of her own suffering the strength to promise her beloved with courage and calmness to be stronger than fate. His eyes, filled with love and gratitude, and yet faltering, gazed toward heaven, whither alone a person can hasten when the burdensome earth no longer holds promise for him.
On the next-to-last day, he returned to the idea of death; dulled by pain, he made but a single utterance, which his wife courageously answered. Finally, his struggling nature was exhausted. On the 24th, at 3 a.m., his head slipped out of the supporting arm of his wife, and she raised her arms up, grateful that he whom she loved more than life itself was now no longer suffering.
[Ed. note: Chodowiecki similarly did illustrations of the grieving widow and children immediately after the death of the husband and father as well as one of the grieving widow alone (Göttinger Taschenkalender [1798, 1799]):]
Here grieving widows receive the condolences of friends; note the sheet-covered portrait of the husband on the wall (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki,  Die Traurigkeit an einer Witwe, das Mitleiden an ihrer Freundin, Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xxvii.c;  Göttingen Taschenkalender ):
Although he had lived in our good Ulm for but eight months, the blessing of his noble humanity now rests on its residents, native, and foreigners alike, who were so moved by his illness and with profound grief now lament his passing. At the solemn High Mass that the widow attended with her orphaned children, she had the sweet conviction that many a tear was there being shed round about her, that many a sigh followed the transfigured deceased up to the throne of the Eternal. He now rests in the tiny village of Söflingen, a half hour from Ulm, alongside his two daughters [Adele and Clemence Huber] who preceded him in death during the same year. 
If one of his friends one day finds his way to this tiny village, he will find the green hillside adorned with a cross which he himself had erected there for the beloved at the request of the afflicted mother. In a simple fashion, not unlike the surrounding graves, the cross bears only the names Klementine Pauline Lavinia, and Emanuele Honorine Adele. — And this tiny sliver of ground is now the most precious thing this earth possesses for his survivors.
[*] Initial representative illustration (which did not accompany Therese’s article): Frauenzimmer Almanach zum Nutzen u Vergnügen für das Jahr 1807; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung. Back.
 Ludwig Ferdinand Huber had departed Ulm on 23 September 1804 for Leipzig, where he needed to assess his late father’s last will and testament, a task he unfortunately was unable to complete. During this trip he also visited Berlin, Halle, and Göttingen, in the latter of which he made the acquaintance, for the first time, of his wife’s, Therese Huber’s, parents and siblings (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland, from the Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xlv):
Huber experienced only quite brief periods of an absence of lucidity, none of which amounted to anything more than a certain tension that gave his speech an element of incoherency. During his final hours, it was more an obscurity of impressions that could not quite separate the final stirrings of his beloved heart from reality. For example, twice he thought his son-in-law Greyerz was there, and asked him: “Êtes vous là, Mr. de Greyerz?”
One peculiarity of his illness was that for the final two weeks he no longer spoke German, but rather usually began with French with his physician — likely a reminiscence of his childhood, when his mother was caring for him, or — his physical suffering affected his brain like passion or strong feeling, for he never spoke German in anger or amid profound pain. French had also always been the language of love with his spouse. Back.
 Söflingen at the time was an extremely small village just to the southwest of Ulm proper (map: “Wurtemberg,” in William Shepherd, Historical Atlas , 143; image, 1805, i.e., just after Huber died: University of Texas at Austin; illustration: Söflingen. Um 1805; Stadtarchiv Ulm):
Translation © 2017 Doug Stott