Luise Wiedemann Memoirs

Luise Wiedemann, née Michaelis
Erinnerungen, ed. Julius Steinberger (Göttingen 1929)
Composed during her Final Years


I. Luise’s Autobiography; — II. Stepbrother Fritz; — III. Caroline; — IV. Lotte; — V. Philipp; — VI. Children

Editorial notes

The first edition of these memoirs was based on an original, apparently unedited manuscript.

Concerning bracketed comments [like this]:

Luise Wiedemann’s own marginal additions are always indicated by “[Marginal note: etc.]”; otherwise, bracketed remarks indicate passages in which either Julius Steinberger—the original editor—or I, or both, had questions or made corrections (e.g., to dates). Luise’s memory, as she herself candidly laments, was not always accurate, nor was her written German particularly elegant, often being simply incorrect or frustratingly ambiguous, or both. Since I did not have the luxury of simply leaving it to readers to decipher such texts in the original, I had to make judgment calls involving sentences certainly often capable of a different interpretation.

Concerning the identification of persons:

I have tried, with the help of Steinberger’s notes and other sources, to identify as many persons as possible in these texts, linking their names or other references (e.g., “his wife,” “her son,” etc.) to the accompanying biograms. Luise occasionally includes such a blizzard of names in certain lengthier passages that I have regularly repeated links even in close proximity, then equally often done without the links toward the end of a passage if it seemed sufficiently clear who the person was and no similar names or persons might confuse the reader.

As readers will quickly discover, many of the families with whom the Michaelises (and the Wiedemanns, Luise’s own family) were acquainted had multiple members, multiple sons and daughters, sometimes multiple (i.e., remarried) wives or husbands, and multiple relatives. Luise will, moreover, often reference even family members differently, referring, e.g., to her brother Philipp Michaelis as “Philipp,” “Michaelis,” “Dr. Michaelis,” “my brother” (she had two brothers, the other also being “Dr. Michaelis”), and so on. That Philipp’s son was also “Dr. Michaelis,” of course, adds to the confusion. The Wiedemann family was similarly intimately acquainted with a father and son “Dr. Hegewisch,” and a certain Professor Himly’s “wife” could be one of two close acquaintances of the Wiedemanns depending on the year. Similarly, Luise had not one but two daughters named “Zoe,” and two of her daughters married brothers named “Welcker.” Those are but a few examples.

Orthography during this period, even for names, was inconsistent, and Luise often recalls a name only incompletely from memory and equally often spells phonetically. I have left some names in her original orthography but changed others for simplicity (e.g., Bouterwek instead of Buterwek). Although a critical edition of these memoirs would, of course, maintain utter consistency in such textual matters, this translation seeks instead to provide readers easy access to the information Luise offers and the story she tells while simultaneously giving them a certain sense for the characteristically inconsistent orthography of the period without things becoming too confusing or distracting.

Once readers are comfortably familiar with any given person, there is, of course, no need to keep referencing that person’s biogram, though they should remain mindful of the potential confusion described above.

Pagination, e.g., |45|, from original publication