Schopenhauer, Johanna (1766–1838)

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Schopenhauer, Johanna (1766–1838)

German writer who hosted an influential salon. Name variations: Johanna Henriette Trosiener; Henriette Trosiener or Trosina; Madame Schopenhauer. Born Johanna Henriette Trosiener (also seen as Trosina) in Danzig, West Prussia, on July 9, 1766; died on April 18, 1838, in Jena, Prussia; daughter of Christian Heinrich Trosiener (a merchant, banker, and senator) and Elisabeth (Lehmann) Trosiener; married Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer (a merchant), on May 16, 1785 (died 1805); children: Arthur Schopenhauer (a philosopher, b. February 22, 1788); Luise Adele Schopenhauer (a poet, b. June 12, 1797)

Selected writings:

A Lady Travels: Journeys in England and Scotland from the Diaries of Johanna Schopenhauer.

Now best remembered as the mother of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, Johanna Schopenhauer was a novelist and travel writer well known in her time. Her father, a well-to-do Danzig merchant and banker, gave her an excellent education and allowed her to study art. Her intellectual and artistic interests were neglected, however, after her marriage at age 18 to Heinrich Schopenhauer, a 38-year-old merchant of Hamburg. She had two children, Arthur in 1788 and Adele Schopenhauer in 1797, and devoted herself to their care at their country home outside Danzig. In the early 1800s, most of the Schopenhauer family fortune was lost during a period of rapid inflation and speculation; in consequence, Heinrich committed suicide in 1805. The next year Johanna, after having settled the Schopenhauer finances, moved with her daughter to Weimar, where, at age 40, she began an entirely new life.

Weimar was a cultural center for German literary and artistic figures, and Johanna soon became part of Weimar's social elite. She started a salon where she hosted new and established writers and poets, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Encouraged by her friends, Johanna took up writing herself and also studied painting. In 1810, she published a biography of her friend, the German writer Karl Fernow; she would write and publish for the next two decades, gaining a considerable reputation for herself. Writing across genres, she produced travelogues from her trips abroad, as well as biographies of artists, novellas, story collections, and several full-length novels, the best known being Gabriele (1819). Her work became quite popular, and she enjoyed considerable fame across Germany.

Johanna had a close relationship with her daughter, but she was estranged from her son Arthur, later a well-known Romantic philosopher. "The character or will," he once opined, "is inherited from the father; the intellect from the mother." Their strained relationship prior to 1819 is preserved in their often harsh correspondence; Johanna never saw him again after an argument in 1814, during which she apparently threw him down a flight of stairs. In 1819, Arthur broke off all correspondence with his mother following a disagreement over the family finances. In 1828, Johanna moved to Bonn to live with Adele, but when the ruler of Weimar, Karl Friedrich, offered the celebrated author a pension, she accepted and retired to his court at Jena in 1837. She completed her memoirs before dying at Jena the following year. The memoirs were published in 1924.

sources:

Buck, Claire. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Durant, Will. The Story of Philosophy. NY: Washington Square Press, 1961.

Wallace, W. Life of Arthur Schopenhauer. St. Clair Shores, MI: Scholarly Press, 1970.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California