Huber, Therese (1764–1829)

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Huber, Therese (1764–1829)

German writer of novels and short stories. Name variations: Theresa Heyne. Born Therese or Theresa Heyne in Göttingen, Germany, in 1764; died in Augsburg in 1829; daughter of Professor D.C.G. Heyne; married Georg Forster (1754–1794), son of naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster; married Ludwig Ferdinand Huber, a Saxon diplomat (died 1804).

Therese Huber was one of the most prolific writers of late 18th- and early 19th-century Germany. Born in Göttingen in 1764, she grew up in the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of her father Professor D.C.G. Heyne's home. She wrote more than 60 stories, 6 novels, 3,800 letters, and translated several works from French and English into German. She also edited the popular German newspaper, Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände (Morning Daily for the Cultured Classes), from 1816 until 1823.

As the drama of the French Revolution unfolded in the year 1789, Therese greeted the events with enthusiasm. Her first husband Georg Forster, who was an ardent supporter of the French Revolution, had to agree to her decision to leave Mainz for Neufchâtel, Switzerland, in 1792 when his and his family's safety was threatened by the Prussian troops advancing to free Mainz from the French army. Georg was the son of the naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster and had accompanied Johann on Captain James Cook's second voyage around the world (1772–75). Following his death in 1794, Therese married Ludwig Ferdinand Huber, a Saxon diplomat who had accompanied her to Switzerland. As their source of income became uncertain in exile, Therese undertook writing so as to contribute financially to the household. Her first literary attempt was the novel Die Familie Seldorf (1795–96), with the French Revolution as its central theme. When L.F. Huber died in 1804, Therese was forced to make writing her profession.

Recognized as one of Germany's first professional women writers, Huber also wrote the first novel in world literature that is set in an Australian penal settlement. Called Adventures on a Journey to New Holland, the novel was published in 1801, and tells the story of people caught up in the aftermath of the French Revolution, although it is said to give only a vague picture of the Australian colony. The story was continued in a sequel, The Lonely Deathbed, published in 1810. In 1966, Adventures on a Journey to New Holland and The Lonely Deathbed, translated by Rodney Livingstone and edited by Leslie Bodi, were republished in a single volume.

Therese Huber worked at a time when the German bourgeoisie elevated the family to a position of great import. Women in domestic roles were seen as fulfilling their "natural" destiny. Familial morals of conjugal love, parental affection, discipline and respect were being propagated through literary and philosophical discourses. Huber's writing also seems to participate in strengthening the foundations of a sentimental family. Women within the family, however, wield power, while men remain either absent or are merely mentioned in her stories and novels. Huber also portrays women as strong individuals who assert themselves by refusing to abide by traditional norms. But these women do not carry their dissent to culmination. They usually accept domesticity as their fate and in the end "happily" turn towards household or maternal duties. Though in her own life Therese was the editor of the newspaper Morgenblatt, she remained anonymous for years because she did not want to provoke public criticism against her unfeminine occupation. She insisted in her letters that she had always been a good mother to her four children and had always fulfilled her household duties conscientiously.

When Therese Huber died in Augsburg in 1829, her obituary written by Wilhelm von Humboldt correctly described her as one of the most intelligent women of her time, who loved life and had uncomplainingly faced several hardships.

Vibha Bakshi Gokhale , author of Walking the Tightrope: A Feminist Reading of Therese Huber's Stories