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Johanna Trosiener, the Daughter of a Danzig Merchant and Mother of Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and Writer Luise Adelaide Lavinia Schopenhauer, Reflects on her Childhood and Youth in the 1770s (Retrospective Account)

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I was nearly six years old, had studied Weissen’s primer from cover to cover. It was an epoch-making work in those days, that first welcome herald of an immeasurable series of children’s books that have followed to this day and will continue to follow; I had retraced the colorful pretty pictures in that book as well I could, and thus, I had fully outgrown the school I had attended until then.

[ . . . ]

In order that something should happen after all, for the time being a language master was hired for me, the best one in town, since he was the only one; an old, dull Frenchman who had half forgotten his native language and had not learned another one. The lessons lasted only a few months; my father soon became aware that by taking lessons with the good old man, I could only make retrograde progress, so for the time being he limited himself to speaking as much French with me as possible to ensure I did not totally forget what little I had brought along playfully from school.

However, I nevertheless needed a more serious pursuit than provided by my dolls – which incidentally I loved tenderly –, even though I had furnished their household in respectable style, heading it with great enthusiasm; and thus eventually my parents, following the common practice in those days and despite my very young age, had to decide nonetheless to provide me with a teacher. He was a candidate of theology recommended to them on all sides, who assumed the duty of spending one hour with me every morning. The organization of the lessons he wished to give me was left entirely up to him. When I was introduced to him, though, he certainly looked in amazement at the six-year old little thing with whom they wished to burden him as a pupil; the attempt was made, and the lessons went better that both of us had expected.

Candidate Kuschel, that was my new teacher’s name, was the son of a tradesman without means though very worthy.

[ . . . ]

[Keeping nearly daily company with Dr. Jameson] I gradually learned English, almost without realizing it; I learned it like my mother tongue, only chatting initially, but eventually reading and writing as well.

A girl learning English! What good in the world would that do her? The question was repeated every day by friends and relatives, for in those days this was something outrageous in Danzig. In the end, I began to be ashamed of my knowledge of the English language, and thus a few years later, I steadfastly refused to learn Greek, as much as I wished to do so in my heart, and as kindly as Dr. Jameson pleaded with me.

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