Arthur Schopenhauer: Letters from his parents

Dernière mise à jour : 9 févr. 2021

Arthur Schopenhauer, by Ludwig Sigismund Ruhl (1815)

"Heinrich Schopenhauer, the father of Arthur Schopenhauer, was a banker and shipping merchant of the city of Danzig, Germany. He was a successful man, and, like all successful men, he was an egotist. (...) He was proud, unbending, harsh, arbitrary, wore a full beard and a withering smile, and looked upon musicians, painters, sculptors and writers as court clowns, to be trusted only as far as you could fling Taurus by the tail.

Johanna was vivacious and eminently social. She spoke French, German, English and Italian. She played the harp, sang, wrote poetry and acted in dramas of her own composition. Around her there always clustered a goodly group of men with long hair, dreamy eyes and pointed beards, who soared high, dived deep, but seldom paid cash. This is the paradise to which most women wish to attain: to be followed by a concourse of artistic archangels — what nobler ambition ! (...)

Madame Schopenhauer moved to Weimar and opened there a sort of literary salon. She wrote verses, novels, essays, and her home became the center of a certain artistic group. (...) At Weimar there was no greeting for Schopenhauer from his mother — she welcomed all but her son.

Unfortunately for her, she put herself on record by writing him letters. Scathing letters are all right, but they should be directed and stamped, then burned just before they are trusted to the mails. To record unkindness is tragedy, for the unkind word lives long after the event that caused it is forgotten."

"Schopenhauer", by Elbert Hubbard


Caroline Bardua - Johanna und Adele Schopenhauer, 1806

[The correspondence to Schopenhauer from his parents during the time of his schooling in Wimbledon in1803 can be found in Patrick Bridgwater's Arthur Schopenhauer's English Schooling (London: Routledge, 1988)]

Letters from Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer to his son

Edinburgh, 26 July 1803.

Dear Son,

I must say that I am very surprised, and even worried, that we have only just received letters from you, whereas it was made clear to you that you were to write once a week. A week ago today your mother sent you a long letter which I beg you to take to heart; otherwise I shall be extremely annoyed, for writing is something you really must learn to do properly; the other things are unimportant by comparison.

Mr Drewe will give you anything you may need; in August I am allowing you to spend one day a week in London, but no nights, and I urge you to behave yourself and to be careful at the riding school, and otherwise to write once a week, on decent paper and John Wm Anderson, Drewe & Co. will always send your letters off straight away, and now God be with you.


Mr Arthur Schopenhauer.

to the Care of the Reverend Mr Lancaster at Wimbledon Commons


Bristol 25 August 1803.

My dear Arthur,

Your mother is not very satisfied with your last letter, and since I have absolutely no note paper this evening I will just saying reply to yours of 14th instant that you need a great deal of practice if you are going to be able to write a fluent and manly hand; that means leaving out all the fancy flourishes; kindly note the capital letters which I have underlined and in future copy them.

The swimming lessons seem to me both dangerous and pointless. In drawing and singing you are bound to make some progress since you are already embarked upon them and you are due home in London on Michaelmas Day, 29 September. I want you to acquire the best and clearest German hand and to send me a reply which will satisfy me.

Your father