Eleanor Alexander
Helene von Mauthner's Letters
To Her Brother-in-Law

(1887 - 1923)

September 3, 1887

Dear Fritz,

Since I assumed that you were already in Berlin, I returned the manuscript of your novel there by parcel post. Heinrich, who read the story with great interest, was very pleased that you thought of sending it to him.

I found the story charming, fascinating and very well told. Both Helene and Heinrich do not believe that the book will find a large number of readers. I do not share this opinion since I believe that among educated readers there will be many who have the necessary knowledge of the most recent medical research to understand the story. But I thoroughly dislike the title; first of all - I do not know why - it sounds unpleasant to my ear. In addition, it is not science that causes the many murders, but the criminal sclentist; scientific motives do not offer any excuses for his deeds. The reader will probably consider him a lunatic. A very simple title, like "A Physician" seems to fit the story much better. With your title, the reader realizes the connections in the story much sooner than you intend him to do.

Not much to report from here. The health of my brother-in-law did not show any change during the last weeks. Helene and the children are well. I hope that the stay at the sea has done you a lot of good and that Gretl is quite well again. Could you not come to Vienna this month? I hope to hear from you soon and remain with best regards for you, Jenny & Gretl,

Your Gustav


September 12,1887

My good Fritz,

I postponed writing to you from day to day because Heinrich wanted to dictate to me; but the poor guy seems to have one trouble after the other. Now I do not want to wait any longer.

Your novel was of the greatest interest to all of us, Heinrich, Gustav, two friends of Heinrich, one a doctor and the other a medical man. Because of my acquaintance with Heinrich and his friends, I have been interested in Bacteniology for many years; still, I believe that a reader who does not know more about this field than any educated person would, would be attracted by this tale. The story is exciting and original - it seems to nie that you offer something new in all your works. lf I may be permitted a criticism, it would be that for the less educated reader like myself, you do not explain sufficiently why the doctor needs another dead body and especially why he needs that of a dead man. Gustav was not pleased with the style, but I do not think that is very important. You gave great pleasure to poor Heinrich and for that I thank you with all my heart, When will the next volume of "Quartette" be published?

By now I live half in Vienna and half in Vielau. I now have to get everything ready for Heinrich. We will move to the city on the 22nd or 23rd of February, and Heinrich will follow about four days later. The most elaborate preparations have to be made for the move; in Vienna I will first get the largest room, the salon, ready. My health has not changed at all - always the same misery. The children are well and poor papa is surprisingly well.

Many kisses for Gretl and Jenny. In affectionate friendship, Helene


J.G. Cottasche Buchhandlung Nachfolger
June 1, 1898

According to our discussion a few days ago, I accept the obligation to pay the original costs of publishing Fritz Mauthner's "Kritik der Sprache" ten days after completion of his work.

The necessary pre-condition is that the publisher sign a contract with Fritz Mauthner, stipulating that from the profits of the sale, after expenses, Fritz Mauthner will receive royalties of 80%, the remaining 20% going to the Verlagsbuchhandlung (the publisher).

J.G. Cottasche Buchhandlung Nachfolger, Stuttgart


Vienna, Kärtnerstrasse 1
October 20, 1902

I received your bill of September 30 of this year from your director, Mr. Lehman, together with my late husband's letter of June 1, 1898, in which he declared his willingness to pay for the costs of publication of the work of my brother-in-law, Fritz Mauthner, in Berlin, "Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache."

I am sending you this amount without asking the permission of the Guardians' or Inheritance Administration. This frees you from the obligation of submitting all the bills for production costs and thus you will not have to await the slow deeisions of the government offices. I also know that this way I am acting according to the wishes of Fritz Mauthner.

You will receive the amount of your bill, 9725 Marks, through the KK Priv. Oest. Creditanstalt + H + 0 in Vienna.

Yours truly, Helene Mauthner


23 October 1904

Dear Fritz

You are probably surprised that I did not answer your letter long ago, but I first wanted to settle matters with regard to Alfred, and I could not do that until today. Ernst and I decided to send him 400 Kronen each so that he could get what he likes for himself. Since you could have trouble with the customs, if you send him something from Berlin, I would be happy to buy him a present here. You would just have to send me a card with a few suitable words, but it is important that you write to me at once. I would buy something for a simple household, but if you have a particular wish, just glve nie a hint. Perhaps, a clock for his desk, a book maybe, or a framed picture, or a bust of Aesculapius - Alfred is a pharmacist - or whatever you want.

Three days ago, Richard got rid of the dreadful hospital and starts his service again tomorrow. One would think that you are absolutely right with everything you say, but it really is not so. In the army here, nobody believes in honesty - everyone supposes that even the most decent people lie. That may be only too true, but the innocent suffer. When Richard has no infection, doctors find nothing wrong with him; since he is well-built, the doctors do not believe him. What could decendy be done, has been done, and by very influential people too. All for nothing. Right now, Richard is well; for how long only time can tell.

Otherwise not much new. Today we expect great scandals here. The sixtieth birthday of Mayor Lueger was to be celebrated with a serenade and a torch parade in a demonstrative manner by the anti-Semitic party. But since he said a short time ago in a public speech that all workers who participated in the May 1st parade in the Prater were scoundrels, all the workers rose like one man and threatened such scandals that all festivities had to be called off. Even so, everyone is very uneasy about tonight. In the suburbs, everything is adorned with more flags than even on the Emperor's Birthday. I know I am telling you quite useless stories, as if I had nothing to do.

All this when I had to fire my butler, who had been with me for almost four years, under unpleasant circumstances. In the house everything is upside down which you may gather from my handwriting.

Farewell and write soon to your Helene


A few years after her husband's death Helene bought an old castle, "Johrnsdorf bei Mahrisch Schönberg," and a large farm and modernized it extensively.


Johrnsdorf bei Mähr
Schönberg (1)
October 6, 1907

My dear Fritz,

I wonder whether I will be able to write you a proper letter today - I have been trying for a long time, but have been like the man in need of peace and quiet who, as my father always told me, became a rural mailman. But that is only wishful thinking - in reality I have been unable to accomplish anything - perhaps a little more than in Vienna.

At the moment, we are living in a small thoroughly dilapidated building, but we must be glad to have this. You can hardly imagine what the castle looks like. The front is being painted, water pipes are being laid in the building, a ballroom is being built, walls are put in and doors taken out; stoves moved from one place to another, rooms wallpapered, windows painted etc. It will go on like this for a long time and Richard cannot possibly move into the castle before fall. So here we are, trying to make the rather unattractive place with the splendid name Bellaria as comfortable as possible. We'll spend the summer here.

In a few days, Miss Maude will arrive; then Marianne and Stefan with the little one; Ernst will follow at the beginning of July. Towards the end of July, I plan to go to Altaussee, if I can get a room at the Seewirt, but there is little hope right now. Since Miss Maude will leave for England in the middle of July, a small room will be free here. Would you not like to give us the great pleasure of a visit? By then the workmen should be gone and nothing would disturb you; I do think you would enjoy a stay here. The region is very pretty, even if not magnificent; the park is very, very old and very beautiful, fruit and vegetable gardens very large and even the stables have their charm; the woods are gorgeous. The estate was greatly neglected during the last years, and there will be much work for gardeners, the forester and the steward; for Richard especially there will be enough to do for years. The house is full of a lot of very old, but unfortunately not antique, fumiture. Every time I open one of the many boxes I make the most wonderful discoveries. The other day I found about eighty empty soap cartons and a little later an incredible number of damaged good-for-nothing flower baskets. On the other hand, the most necessary things are missing. Only glasses in every size and shape, especially champagne glasses, are plentiful. Erich helps laying water pipes and spends much of his time in fireplaces and canals, and he looks just like it!

Richard is at present at the Agricultural Exhibition in Düsseldorf and is staying with Walter in Düsseldorf. He is coming home tomorrow, but I am afraid he will have to leave immediately for army training in Hermanstadt. He has asked for postponement, but it has not yet been granted. Richard seems to have made a good name for himself, especially for his willingness to work hard. Only the future will show whether he will prove himself. Ernst seems to get along better than usual; hopefully no disaster will happen in the end. Marianne feels better, but the ten month old baby will have to stay with the wet nurse until October, which is most unfortunate.

I myself am feeling better; the anemia and the disagreeable heart murmur have become milder. But 1 can hardly walk and the slightest intellectual effort leaves nie exhausted. Doing nothing is certainly utterly contrary to my nature; I thoroughly dislike this kind of life.

I have really talked enough about myself. As a reward I would like to know how you are, whether Gretchen and her son will really come to visit. And last not least, I would like to know the title of the book that has brought about such a change in your life. Could I already buy it? Won't it be much too clever for me? I am a slow learner.

And now farewell, dear Fritz, and write again soon to your old Helene

Have I thanked you already for your letter of May 15? All this moving around has really confused me.


Helene sent the following letter to her brother-in-Iaw when she heard of his engagement to Hedwig Straub. lt was the beginning of a very warm friendship with Hedwig.


July 4, 1909

My dear Fritz,

Deeply moved I read your letter over and over again. You have taken your life once more into both hands, have formed it with the joy of a creator. I always had, and still have, no greater wish than that you might find a comfortable home in a quiet, happy spot - I had almost given up all hope. May you have done the right thing and may your chosen one be the right companion. I am sad that the distance makes it impossible at this moment for me to form my own impression and opinion. But do press the hand of Hedwig Straub for me and tell her that you have few friends as faithful as your sister-in-law.

No more for today. Next to the all important event in your life everything else seems unimportant. Be and remain happy and enjoy your own home, my dear old Fritz, and the charming garden that you love.

Today and always, cordially, your Helene

I suppose that you will not come to Johrnsdorf right now. The "Stefanei" is here and between the 10th and 16th the Kuhs come. More next time.


When I read the next letter I was charmed and would have loved to take a vacation there at once.


Brioni (2)
October 29, 1909
My dear Fritz,

I have just returned from a delightful walk that would have charmed you. All over the island trees are growing - they are called strawberry trees - bearing green, yellow and mature bright red fruit; mixed in are blossoms not dissimilar to Lilies of the Valley. The fruit has a bland taste, but the tree is so charming that I would have loved to send you some branches with blossoms and fruit - if only you did not live so terribly far away. I know so well that you are a lover and expert of beautiful plants. Running among the trees, there are pheasants who unfortunately have a most unpleasant voice; I did not know that. And rabbits run all over the place.

The ground is not uninteresting; wherever you dig you find traces of old buildings, floors with mosaics from old Roman times. lt seems that Brioni, together with Pola, flourished then and was an important city. Later it decayed completely and in the last century malaria was so rampant that the island became deserted and overgrown with brambles.

Then about eighteen years ago the island was bought by a Mr. Kupelwiser, a very respected personality in Vienna. He had an elaborate, almost confusing, network of roads put in; the work was mainly done by convicts. Between the roads there are small paths leading to some hills with a beautiful view. He added large vineyards and Brioni wine has made a name for itself, at least with us. The underwood was eliminated and the wild animals that live there too flourish.

Professor Koch whom Kupelwiser called here for a consultation and who has some sort of monument cut out of the rocks, gave very good advice, and indeed for years there has been no malaria on the island; the mosquitoes are also gone. Instead there is an elegant hotel, a large harbor, steam ships and sailing boats, and a bathing establishment. The ruins have been cleaned and sea walls have been built. Hundreds of kegs of wine are shipped every year and work is going on cheerfully everywhere. Faust seems to have reappeared in the shape of Mr. Kupelwiser.

He lives here with his family and, besides his villa and that of his children, there are three buildings that house the workers and the convicts who do not disturb anybody, but do their work more calmly than our workers at home.

The season is almost over, but that is really very pleasant. On our walks, Miss Maude and I hardly ever meet anybody; we have not met any acquaintances here; perhaps that is too much of a good thing. The day before yesterday, we had quite a nice adventure: we had gone in the afternoon by steamer (3/4 hrs) to Pola and when we got back to the boat in pouring rain, we were told that the high winds prevented our return. We only felt strong winds but no storm in Pola, no sign of a storm. We rushed immediately to the next hotel; since we were sopping wet, we could not leave our room; the manager helped us with some clothes for the night. After we got over our first dismay, we really enjoyed our situation. It was impossible to get hold of a comb and brush for love or money, but we were delighted to have a Piece of soap. When we went home the next morning, our nutshell (called steamer) danced so violently in the waves that we were glad we had not gone home last night.

I am regularly taking my warm sea baths and feel quite well. In the middle of next week I plan to travel to Abbazia and stay at the Quisisana. I think I will stay there until November and then retum home.

Since I have a lot of time here, I go around inspecting the few boats here and think of you. But most of the boats are fairly wide and they do not seem night for you. You have no idea how proud I am to have guessed your wishes, proud and delighted. But, my dear Fritz, you will have to help, for I cannot do anything here or in Vienna. Therefore I beg you to have a shelter built for your boat, as well as a cabin for bathing. In addition, buy a slim beautiful boat, or lf you prefer, a wide one. And do not accuse me of making too much trouble for you. It should give you pleasure - everything else does not matter - and in the end just send me the bills. But I count on it that you will have the most attractive and beautiful things that you can find. The boat house should be built in a way that will make it difficult to steal the boat.

November 3, 1909

I am distraught about the length of this letter - here I am writing to someone who is really busy and supposed to rest his eyes. Have you heard that Dr. Roessler had a light stroke? It seems, however, that the old man is completely recovered.

Let me know soon that the cottage is being bullt and the boat ordered. I am very sorry that I cannot be present on your birthday. Do you know that before I had decided to go south, I had toyed with the idea of a visit with you? Well, it was not supposed to be.

Now farewell - my greetings to Dr. S.



"The best news from Anna and little Paul". How nice to hear such good news even at this late date.


May 21, 19 10

My dear Fritz,

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words. I spent whitsun with Richard, the Lillerichs and Lilli's youngest brother in Johrnsdorf. I was very busy because I had to hire a new crew of servants, but I managed the work quite well. I rested during the holidays and retumed home again on the 18th. There is much to be done here, in the house and outside, and as soon as this is done, I will leave and move for most of the summer to Johrnsdorf. This time again I liked it very much: the cherry trees, as well as the peaches and apricots, were no longer in flower, but apples and pears were magnificent and at the very end the lilac began to flower and their sweet smell filled the air. When I retum, thejasmine should be in full bloom.

I will say nothing more about your visit, but I really do feel hurt. lf you should change your mind, write at once. I am having a new chicken coop built which might be another attraction for you. Marianne says that you wrote her a dear letter. lf your conscience bothers you, just do something to make you feel better; she would be very happy and is ready for any sacrifice. The best news from Anna and the little Paul; otherwise everything seems to go reasonably well. Ernst is cramming for his exams; the Lillerichs are very cheerful. The little one is beginning to be quite naughty, and unfortunately one now has to be strict with her.

I seem to have given you a lot of trouble with my birthday present - I would love to take care of it myself, but unfortunately that is impossible.

Enough for today - I wish you cooler days than we have here; it is hot summer weather. People blame the comet for the extreme temperatures which are really horrendous. I do not take kindly to him because he made it impossible for me to make his acquaintance.

Kindest regards to you both from your Helene


August 7, 1910

Dear Fritz,

I am only glad that, finally, you have your boat. That was a difficult birth! Did you, as I suggested, christen it "Hedwig"? I am asking the bank to send you the money now, but am surprised about the low price. I hope that it really is a good boat because a light boat would not do on Lake Constance. - Finally the weather here is lovely and, since the sun probably shines on you too, the boathouse should soon be finished. I count on it that you will see to it that the boat and the bathing hut will be most comfortable. When I come to visit you one day and find out that you were trying to be very economical (for me) I would be thoroughly angry.

What you write about Wartenberger pleases me very much; it certainly is the night thing to do. I only hope he will really do it. Are you quite well again? lf you had followed my suggestion to come here for a visit, you would not have had such uncomfortable days. Right now, Richard, Stefanie and Ernst are here. Everybody is well - we send you viribus unitis the warmest greetings.



IV Schwartzenbergplatz 15
October 9, 1910

My dear Fritz,

Only the day before yesterday did I read the dedication in your book and was deeply moved. I had been traveling in the last weeks and when 1 returned I had trouble with my eyes and could not read for four days. Fortunately, the children told me about lt. I really cannot tell you how much your dear, kind words meant to me: before me, in my mind, I saw you the way I know and love you. I had not known about your childhood adventure.

Malwine told me that when Ernst read it for the first time during the summer he was so moved that he was unable to speak. And they, who would be so pleased with your successes, how happy would they have been with you.

Enough for today, my dear Fritz - nothing else is important today.

Warmest regards to your wife from your Helene

I will probably leave on the 18th, since I have been unable to do any shopping.


November 30, 1910

Only today, dear Hedwig, am I able to thank you and Fritz for your many kindnesses. How could you do so much for me - and all on such an unimportant birthday: I've considered birthdays unnecessary and unwelcome for a long time and no one is supposed to mention them here. This year, however, I was really pleased to receive your present: I love your Picture, my dear Hedwig, because now I can begin to imagine what you are like. I looked at it for a very long time and studied it carefully and I think I saw that we would become good friends, when we had a chance to get to know each other; although I would probably feel small and unimportant in your presence - even so I think we would understand each other - am I conceited to think so? Warmest thanks for the photographs; I am afraid that you might have had them taken just for me.

I am delighted that you combine your energy with your medical knowledge and force Fritz to take two days off from work every week. lt will do you both a lot of good. Here, too, the weather is horrible, wet and cold and windy and a nasty mixture of rain and snow.

The day before yesterday, Franzi delighted the family with a healthy baby daughter. All is well. It also might interest Fritz, perhaps, to learn that Lilli's brother (Lilli is Erich's wife) is going to marry the singer, Selma Kurz, in a few days. He has been my physician for many years and Fritz may have heard of him.

December 2, 1910

That's what happens to my letters! Something quite painful happened at home. My maid who has been with me for many years came down with a high fever and no other symptoms could be discovered. I was unable to keep her, as there is a danger that it is typhoid or open tuberculosis; in short, very painful. I was truly sorry for the poor girl; I also missed her help. lt is the main reason for my belated thanks and this confused letter.

Keep well both of you - warm greetings and hugs from your Helene

Unfortunately I was unable to attend [Maximilian] Harden's lecture on Tolstoi yesterday. lt seems to have created quite a bit of excitement.


February 17, 1911

My dear Fritz,

You'll find that my letters follow each other far too quickly, but I am so pleased with the possibility that I might get to know Hedwig and see you again that I am writing once more, although I just mailed my last letter. I am prepared to use all my diplomatic skills that I might have, if only we'll be successful.

Do listen. Nothing is as yet decided about Prague. Erich passed through Prague on a business trip and visited the Kuhs between trains. There he was told that the Kuhs were planning to spend the third in Dresden. I really do not believe it; at the last minute they will stay in Prague, but we cannot discount this news. In addition Marie told Erich to suggest that some of us come before the third and some of us afterwards, so that there will not be too many of us at once. She is afraid that the apartment would be too small; she also is not feeling well and would enjoy us more lf she could see only a few of us at a time. I am also afraid that a visit by Ernstens, you and me and the Alexanders would indeed be too much.

Here I was interrupted - I had hoped to say something more definite by now. Unfortunately, that is impossible, since Marie absolutely refuses to answer letters on this topic. One thing I can tell you it will be most difficult for Malwine to travel, since her father is seriously ill and in great pain; so it will be difficult for her to leave him for several days. In a way that makes things easier, although I know that she would regret it very much lf she were unable to meet Hedwig.

As far as I am concemed, I can adjust my plans to your wishes and could come before or after the third. Only March 1st would not be good since it is my "at-home" day. How about March 6th or 7th? lf my health does not give me trouble, I would be prepared to come any time, only as I said before, not on the Ist or 15th. Should you, however, choose one of these days, I would try to arrange it somehow. As to the third, Marie may want to spend the days with the Wahles alone. I should like to bring Marianne along and Richard would also like to come, but lf Ernst comes with some of his children at the same time, it might indeed be too much. I did not discuss your plans with anvone and ask you only one favor - get rid of your various little ills and come to Prague.

I received your card yesterday - it sounds like a lot of fun to own a boat on Lake Constance.

My health is good - enough for today - I am constantly being interrupted.

Faithfully, your Helene - who looks forward with pleasure to the visit.


March 20, 1911

Even without your card, dear Fritz, I would have written to you today. Perhaps you would have realized without my words, how much Hedwig had won me from the first moment; still I want to put it into words. Since she is your wife, I would have hoped for her friendship, even if I had liked her less. But you know me so well that you would have sensed my true feelings, especially since hypocrisy is not my strength. I am all the happier to have found in Hedwig such a lovable and splendid human being, and I believe that she also has friendly feelings towards me. I would have been sad if I had not liked your wife; not only do I like her very much, but I also believe that you (as a man and a writer) could not have made a better choice. Few people only can claim to have made such a brilliant choice. And I think you can appreclate more than anyone else that she is also dear and lovely to look at.

I write all this to you because it would be tasteless to say it to her. But hug her for me and tell her that I am very proud of her. Yesterday at Malwine's I saw Bettelheim. He barely hid his silent wrath towards you. I played dumb and did not understand any hints - if I had I would have had to feel insulted.

Lilli Lehmann was planning to come tonight but asked me not to have any of my children around except the Lillerichs. So I sent them off, but in the end she called it off. She seems to be very tired.

Nothing new from the children. Miss Maude is in bed with tonsillitis. I hope that Hedwig survives all the innumerable hardships. I thought she was most capable.

Faithfully, Helen


October 11, 1911

My dear Fritz,

Various things - both pleasant and unpleasant - prevented me from answering your letter which arrived four days ago. I will give you an answer to your question right away: the difference in the tone of voice when you speak about your mother and your father - it is really breath-taking. While you never speak of your mother without great gentleness, as lf you still wanted today to stroke her dear hands in gratitude and faithful memory, when you speak of your father, your voice sounds rough and brief. But this does not hurt me at all, since you know that I like it ever so much better to hear a harsh truth than a sentimental lie. I never knew your father, but I have heard a great deal about him. I also know that you are rather reserved when you speak of him. Your words do not hurt me in any way, not at all. It may be different for Marie - perhaps a long tradition and life in a provincial town may play a certain role. She will probably demand that Otto and Helen will describe Rudolf in coming years as a model husband and father, as a patient and excellent player of tarot.

The memoirs of your school years fascinate me and I would be grateful if you would send me further chapters to Abbazia, Pensione Quisisana. So much in it reminds me of the kind of teaching I learned about when Ernst was studying for his matura. Even if you do not speak of your teachers with much love, the youthful, almost passionate, description of your young suffering touched me more than I can say. By the way, Ernst had sent me the relevant passages in the Süddeutsche Monatshefte.

I plan to travel in a few days and leave children and grand children in good health. I hope that Hedwig's tooth has calmed down so that I soon will have good news from Munich. Perhaps Hedwig can talk herself out of an operation; although I myself would have opted for an operation at once if the doctor had wanted it.

I embrace you, although in a hurry, and remain always faithfully, your old Helen


September 29, 1911

My dear Hedwig and Fritz,

Thank you very, very much for sending me your book. Even if I do not appreciate your being quite frank, my interest in it is so great that I am waiting impatiently for the continuation.

You did not write about our father with the necessary understanding because you did not take his background into account. He belonged to the first generation allowed to leave the ghetto, and he was able to achieve success in the free world, he was not well educated, did not possess what we call "culture," but he had the strong desire to hold his own in society. He was willing to invest more money than he really could afford to help his brother's life in society. It is sad that he often was not able to find the proper way to do this, but it was not his fault. My children know more about art and literature than I do. Otto who just got back from Rome is considered one of the most knowledgeable people in Rome's treasures. That is third generation: everyone seems to believe that at this point everything goes down hill again.

You say you suffer from too much company; I am not surprised - even I have to live with your fame. In Franzensbad, a Mrs. Wolf became my faithful friend when she heard that I was your sister.

- Marie


November 10, 1911

Dear Fritz,

Heaven and earth seem to have conspired to disturb Hedwig's life. Did the earthquake frighten her very much? Some years ago when I was sick in bed, I was suddenly thrown, together with my bed, high up into the air and I must confess that was a rather scary and unpleasant sensation. Thank you very much for your letter of the 15th, not only for its good news but also because I know that the trouble with your eyes makes writing hard for you at the present. Besides, Hedwig has spoiled you all of these years taking care of most of your correspondence.

You will certainly remember the day of the operation for a long time, but all that ends well appears in a much better light later on. Gretl's wish to stay with you on the day of the operation is dear and quite natural. Still, I believe that you might have preferred to be alone on this day, but she really did the right thing.

Outside storms are raging; heavy rain is pounding the windows. Until now, the weather had been extraordinarily beautiful. lf I have no news tomorrow, I will allow myself the luxury of a wire because I want to know whether the earthquake had a bad effect on Hedwig's health.

This year you will spend your birthday in strange surroundings and in uncomfortable circumstances; I hope so much that Hedwig will feel well on the 22nd. That will make the shabby hotel room much more pleasant.

And now, farewell my old Fritz! If it is not asking too much, I should love to ask you for further, even very brief, news.

Your Helene


Abbazia (3)
My dear Fritz,

My warmest thanks for all the wires and letters. You must have lived through horrible days, but will now be ecstatic that Hedwig has come through these hard times without any complications and that before long she will be a quite healthy woman. I think of you a great deal and am so very sorry - I truly mean it - that I could not be of any help in these days. I was greatly concerned that the news of the death of her brother would affect Hedwig's recovery. This news, just at this moment, seemed to be the invention of a malicious fate.

Do you not think that Hedwig should spend a restcure in a milder climate when she is somewhat recovered, dear Fritz? If one does not give oneself plenty of time to recover, one will regret it for many years. I do not know whether Hedwig will be able to realize this - perhaps you should make the decision for her. Financial considerations must have no part in this.

I was not really taken aback by the choice of a woman doctor because Hedwig had voiced such opinions before - nevertheless I must admit I was surprised. But since she proved to be so excellent, you were absolutely right. lt is a great comfort to me that Hedwig is so well looked-after. These constant noises from the street seem to be an inevitable part of a woman's clinic; in the women's hospital, where I was with Lilli a short while ago, there was a hard to describe steady noise day and night. Why did Hedwig's brother die so suddenly? Was it an accident - I hope nothing worse. Was he married?

Please write me a word how your are and whether you are already conscious of a reaction. Hadn't Hedwig planned to surprise you with a fait accompli? I do not think it would have been the right thing to do. Hugs and warmest wishes from me and tell her that I wished that my doctors had acted this way forty five years ago - lt would have saved me a great deal of trouble. My health is excellent these days.

Faithfully, Helene

lt was really dear of Gretl to come; the separation from the children must have been a great sacrifice. Yet I believe that just at this moment she could not help you very much and that it must have been hard for you to find any time to be with her. Am I wrong?


Hotel Pension Quisisana
Abbazia, November 25, 1911

My dear Fritz,

Your good wire just came and made me very happy. You seem to be over the worst! But Hedwig had some bad times and perhaps you lived through even worse ones. But let's forget about it! This morning I received your postcard and although it sounded more content and less worried, I did send you a wire. I was just so anxious for some news. Will Lilli L. come to Vienna again this year? She sent me two books by Arthur Gauther this summer, but frankly they did not charm me. Do you know anything about him?

I'm afraid I feel obliged to warn you a bit about Mrs. Brandeis-Weckersheim. She is the divorced wife of the brother of my Aunt Aurelia (whom you know). In her youth she was charming, later she was a good deal talked about, then divorced. After that she travelled all over the world, returned to Vienna and then for many years had an affair with the actor Korff that was well known all over town. All this under the (wide open) eyes of her adolescent daughter. The poor girl suffered immensely under these unsavory conditions and two years ago married, against the wishes of her mother, a well established doctor in Vienna. Mrs. B. W. has had to battle financial disasters continuously, although her late father tried everything possible to safeguard her large fortune. The only possible excuse for her behaviour is her husband who is an incorrigible good-for-nothing and a very stupid man on top of it.

November 26, 1911

Richard just arrived and will stay until I leave. In spite of some faults he really is a dear guy. He is sending you warm greetings and best wishes for Hedwig's speedy recovery.

Enough for today! Hoping for further good news , your old Helene

I will go home on the 29th or 30th.


February 5, 1912

Dear Fritz,

I can well imagine that it may be hard for you to find the time to write, since your days are so full, but when a lazy person like me cannot manage to write a letter, it is scandalous. A life like mine is mostly filled with little nothings, and when I ask myself in the evening; what did I do all day, I am ashamed, but in a way my days are really busy. So it happened that Hedwig's letter remained unanswered. In the end our letters will cross as usual! But most important-, I hope Hedwig feels much better; I will write to her soon.

Today I want to report about Karl Roessler's "Fünf Frankfurter," since I assume you are interested in the play of Malwine's brother. The play did not have the rousing success here it did in other cities, the fault lies with the Burgtheater. In a small intimate room with better acoustics it would have been much more pleasant. Also the staging was not flawless. The first act is charming and even a severe critic like you would have appreciated it: a delightful family portrait grouped around the mother. The other acts do not measure up to this lovely scene.

Perhaps there is not much to the play, but the idea of bringing the Rothschilds on the stage is pleasant and entertaining. It made quite an impression on me to see the poor lost Rothschild son on the stage in the Burgtheater before a select audience, members of the court, facing serious critics.

What else there is to tell you will hear from Hedwig.

Faithfully, Helene


April 13, 1912

My dear Fritz,

Rarely has something pleased me as much as my successful meddling in your private life. In general one should not interfere in the affairs of one's closest relatives, but this time I felt so strongly: Hedwig must get away from home and - please don't be angry - away from you - that I could not resist and interfered without hesitating. You as a man probably cannot understand what keeps a woman in her own home from resting properly: only trifles, but the day is made up of them.

In Portofino Hedwig will have no daily worries, and she won't be concerned about your cold, since she would not know anything about it. She cannot be annoyed when she spends the day lying on the sofa or sleeps late in the morning, for there is no work to be done. Slowly she will miss you more and more and then, one day, you will appear on the scene, she will long more and more for the Glaserhäusle - and so she will return home happy and healthy. That is how I imagine the whole affair. I only hope events will not prove me wrong. It is such good luck that Hedwig's friend can travel with her; I hope the weather will be lovely, with lots of brilliant sunshine. We have winter storms here and icy temperatures.

Marianne leads her usual life and is more satisfied with herself than I am with her. She also should have a break from keeping house - but she does not want to! I expect her doctor today who will make the decision. Erich's affair shows a character defect, as you say, but it's no good writing about lt. The whole affair means not only a large financial loss, but is a great disappointment for me. He did not only show himself to be gullible, but also frivolous. He behaved in a rather childish way - a grave accusation for a man.

I cannot feel much joy about Nunni's engagement. There are too many cases of mental illness on both sides of the Sobotkas - but the girl is in seventh heaven. Lili Kaps seems to have fallen in love head over heels and I do hope with all my heart that he is the right one this time. Unfortunately he is very deaf, and in the long run it will need love and patience to bear this. It always seems so easy at first.

Adieu, dear Fritz, stay well in this lousy weather and keep a soft spot for your old friend.



Schloss Johrnsdorf
B. Mähr - Schönberg
August 11, 1912

My dear Hedwig,

Two letters from you and Fritz are before me and still I'm asking for more news because I would like to know whether the ashes of your poor brother have finally found a last place of rest, also how you were able to stand the whole unhappy ceremony and how Fritz returned from his trip. We have terribly raw weather which is doing great harm to the harvest.

I hope we will see each other in September - won't we dearest Hedwig. I would so much love to be together with you both in a leisurely fashion, and something always interferes. lt is strange, we hardly know each other and, yet, I feel that we are old friends - and I think you feel the same way.

From old times when we used to inscribe verses in an album I remember a verse:
    Sometimes two people know each other for years
    and in the end hardly know each other.
    Two people just meet and greet each other
    and seem to have known each other for years.
When I think of the two of us, I sometimes remember these lines.

The Erichs will arrive sometime this week, Marie and the Wahles around the 20th. But in the middle of September l'll be alone again with Stefanie.

Marianne and Richard, as well as Ernstl, send their best regards.

I embrace you both and remain, your old Helene


May 18,1913

My dear Fritz,

Your letter answered all my questions, even before you had received them, but since then much time has passed without any news except Ernst's wire. Please dear, dear Fritz, just send a word to Johrnsdorf; I am going there for four or five days on Wednesday to show Richard's fiancée and her mother their new home.

Don't be angry with me that I read sorrow and worry between the lines in your letter - not only measles are catching.

There is much to do here, but a great deal of it is cheerful work. The Ernsts seem happy to be here Ernst looks tanned and well, and the doctor is quite satisfied. He himself is still suspicious. They cannot tell me enough of your love and devotion when they stayed with you. Give Hedwig a kiss and me a minute for a postcard.

Faithfully, your Helene

It will be eleven years tomorrow since Gustav closed his eyes forever.


March 23, 1914

Dearest Fritz,

My warmest thanks, also in the name of the young people, for wire and letter. Liesel had a very hard time - after 36 hours she had to have a caesarian. Today, after five days she is still very weak, but she has plenty of milk and the young man drinks with the greatest pleasure. He weighed 3.7 kilos and Hedwig will tell you that that is a respectable weight for a first born. Soon after his birth, Richard, who looked like a ghost, told me that they had named the baby "Hermann." I still have not recovered from the shock because I think it is a very sombre name. I have to think all the time of a dreadful Hermann I had known when I was a child; I always disliked him. Well, should I live for a long time, I am sure I will eventually get used to "Hermann." The important thing is that the child is flourishing - nothing else counts.

I am writing in the sanatorium where the delivery took place. Right now mother and child are asleep - we sent Richard away. He is so proud and acts as if no other father had ever had a son.

Your letter wandered about for two days because the address was mutilated. Erich always claims that that could not happen in Berlin.
We share the miserable weather with you, but at the Semmering the weather has been simply beautiful for weeks. Ernstens went back there yesterday; he had been in Vienna not even a week when he started to cough again, and the doctor sent him away immediately. However, Malwine wanted to go to Berlin on the 26th for Anna's delivery [Henry; born March 31, 1914] and would like to cut herself in two.

Does Hedwig's novel make progress? Your lovely holidays always take a difficult end. Are you going on new voyages to discover quiet little places?

It's getting lively inside - therefore good bye. Richard sends his love.

I embrace you both, your Helene


June 14, 1914
Schloss Johrnsdorf

Dearest Fritz,

I have been here for a week, but do not live with Richard in the castle; but in my old comfortable Bellania. Do you know that Liesel was very ill and her life in great danger? It was a septic angina, complicated by kidney and heart trouble which left her very weak. Richard asked the family doctor to come and also hired a nurse. I was in Vienna and able to provide them with a doctor and a nurse before Liesel's mother arrived. Every telephone call made me tremble; Richard tried to remain calm, but on the worst day he collapsed. Now he himself is unwell, suffers from the shingles and an unpleasant bronchial catarrh. However, Liesel is beginning to get up again, but still has to keep a very strict diet. Little Hermann is flourishing, but looks unusually pale. Now all danger of sepsis is over. Stefanie will arrive on Wednesday, and I expect Marianne later because she does not want to leave the child so long.

Now a question! Would you like to come to Johrnsdorf for a few weeks? At the beginning of July? I will probably travel with Stefanie for four to six weeks at the end of July. My own household is completely separate from Richard's, and I would try very hard to make your stay a peaceful and quiet one. I cannot tell you how happy I would be, if you would come and Richard would also be delighted because he would enjoy your company so much. Just be dear and kind and answer me quickly.

Apart from unpleasant thunderstorms it is very lovely here. I do not think I'll ever get tired of the charm of Johrnsdorf.

Enough for today - do reply with a loud "yes."

Your Helene


Schloss Johrnsdorf
b. Mahr-Schönberg
June 23, 1914

My dear Fritz,

I can answer your letter only today because Liesl's illness came back; fortunately she is feeling better today. We asked our old family doctor from Vienna to see her and he reassured her and us. We had seriously considered taking her back to Vienna for medical supervision. The nights with severe pain and constant misery were too terrible. Besides, the doctor here believed that the strep virus had already entered into her bloodstream - in short we were desperate. And all that happened after she had already felt so much better. The doctor now tells us that there is no sign of a sepsis; the after effects of her illness are a general weakness; in the fall she will have to have her tonsils out, but the doctor believes that it would be far too dangerous at the moment.

Richard is much better - the asthma is gone, but the catarrh is in full bloom. Erich returned yesterday from Karlsbad looking very well; the cure seems to have done him a lot of good. On Friday he will join Lilli and Gretl, and they will go together to Brioni. I feel well and managed to survive all the storms. What you write about Hedwig does not sound very pleasant - that must have been a strange tooth abscess. I hope all is well again. Under the circumstances I will not say another word about your visit, but I regret it very much indeed.

Good-bye for today, kisses and best wishes from - Helene


The first hint of the coming war, the mobilization of the Austrian army: "the war that only began yesterday has already changed our lives." On August 4, France and England declared war on Germany and Austria - the war was to last until November 11, 1918, at eleven o'clock and ended with the victory of the Allies and the end of the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires. After 1914 the mood of the letters becomes more and more desperate - Helene's good cheer is gone, as all her sons gradually join the army and the food situation at home deteriorates and there is a great deal of illness. One bright spot in these letters is the happiness that Fritz and Hedwig find, the warm friendship of Helene and Hedwig. I am unable to explain her letter of April 28, 1917.


Hotel Salegg, Seis
July 30, 1914


Only today can I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your loving concern for the joys and tribulations of myself and my children. The promotion is now only a formality: several speeches and handing out diplomas. Both Ernst and I felt great sadness that Gustav could not share this hour of pure happiness. I think Ernst will find his place in life and become a capable man.

Marianne, Stefanie and I left immediately after the ceremony. We stayed overnight in Brixen and there we already heard the news of the mobilization. We should have loved to retum at once, but that was not possible. Here we found the hotel in total chaos. For hours no wires could be sent or received, and then only express wires. Rumours were started and later denied. Many families - many of our friends among them - left in panic, and we heard any reliable news only with great delay.

Stefan cannot join us, neither can Ernst. Under the circumstances we are thinking of going home. We are afraid that before long all civilian travel will be halted and the hotel closed. We will not be able to stay in Vienna because of the children, but perhaps somewhere near Vienna.

As long as I live I will regret not to have shared the excitement in Vienna. Every one of us shares it and hates the Serbs whom [Maximilian] Harden defends with so much vigour. The other day I heard a mother scold her boy and as the greatest insult she screamed: you Serb you.

lt will probably be necessary to postpone Mitzi's wedding. At the moment only the military can travel on the railroad - Richard is totally separated from us - an epidemic of scarlet fever is raging, and Richard will probably move Liesel and the child to Gräfenberg, two hours from Johrnsdorf, although Liesel is still not quite well. Erich who starts a good new Position with Brown Bovery on August 1st, also moved Lilli and Gustl from Brioni to Vienna at a moment's notice; they evidently heard frightening rumours there.
You can see how the war that began only yesterday has already changed our lives, although we are not directly involved. Under these circumstances we cannot even think of our rendezvous anymore. Have you thought of having your tonsils checked to find out whether they are the cause of your elevated temperatures?

I embrace you and Hedwig and wish you peace and quiet, free of worries.

In love and hurry, Helene

1000 greetings to Gretl.


October 8, 1914

Dearest Fritz,

Although I am in a bad mood, I still want to use this free hour to write to you. Yesterday Liesel had a tonsil operation, and it turned out to be a rather difficult one; in addition the doctor had trouble with the anaesthesia. In spite of all the troubles the doctors are satisfied. She will have to stay in the sanatorium for a week. Her mother is here and, since she is a very anxious mama, I will have to stay here in Grinzing with the little one. It is not much fun in these hard times, and 1 feel like a prisoner. When I want to go out, I have to import some one from the city.

In addition I am worried about Richard. He had an asthma attack in a strange city where he has a hard time making contact with his fellow citizens. His servant does not speak German; he has consulted several doctors already who were unable to help him. In short, I am thinking of Hermannstadt and am worried and depressed - not the right mood for a birthday. Imagine, Alfred has written to ask whether he should come and Ernst may not have had the courage to ask him to postpone his visit - to wait for better times. His presence will mean, for me at least, a false note - he may even bring his daughter. But perhaps Ernst will have more courage then I imagine.

Lilli Lehmann celebrated many triumphs here. I did not attend the concert because right now I cannot bear to listen to beautiful classical music, but she was so very kind and visited me for an hour on the day she left. I thought she looked much older, drawn and tired, but she did not complain about her health; she was full of musical Plans for the future.

I am thoroughly dissatisfied with your reports about your health. I cannot see why you talk of signs of old age just because you feel slightly dizzy at times. That is no way to talk for a logical thinker: perhaps it was a stomach upset - a prosaic explanation but quite possible.

October 9

I could not finish yesterday, and today your card and Hedwig's letter arrived. Much as I regret it, it seems evident that you cannot come under present circumstances. I know that Ernst feels the same way, and therefore I did not send a wire. Come in better times! But Alfred seems to be in sight. I hope the day will not bring too many psychological upsets for Ernst; he cannot take much. I am thinking a lot about Hedwig's letter; I would so much like to help her. I will write to her tomorrow and would like you to give her a kiss from me.

In the last weeks there has been a variety of good news, but the soldiers in the hospital speak of the most horrid events, if you give them a chance. And terrible injuries are the consequence. The blood bath in France is ghastly, but you Germans - I count you one of them - are such splendid fellows: so strong and still so human. I think there is no civilized nation except yours and ours. I've heard that the Russians are more humane in battle than our other enemies.

Now good night - are you working too hard again? Is that why you do not feel well? Do write soon!

Your Helene

Ernst is stationed somewhere in Galicia, but I have had no news for several days. I wonder what may have happened in the meantime.

October 10, 1914

... In these difficult times, full of worry, when the world is threatened with disaster, it is not the moment for family festivities. Malwine wrote to me that they will pass the day quietly.

In spite of the terrible times, Anna and her three boys came to Vienna a few days ago. She is staying all by herself in the Schreyvogelgasse, since Ernst and Malwine are staying at the Cottaer Sanatorium. Malwine is in charge of house-keeping at a military hospital. It is quite unbelievable how capable and efficient she remains. She has the good fortune that George does not have to serve in the army and that her innumerable sons-in-law have not been called up. Everyone does his best - all I can do is to knit for the soldiers. Into each I knit the passionate wish that peace may come soon and that the caps will no longer be needed.


February 22, 1915

You must not be angry, dear Fritz, if I do not write regularly. It is not so much a question of time - I am just not in the mood. I am seriously worried about Richard and Johrnsdorf.

Richard returned with a bad catarrh and asthma from Meran; his petition for an extension of his leave was answered with a wired order to report at once to Mähr Ostram. He stayed with me for a few hours and seemed quite well, and this still seems to be true. He had a medical examination in Mahr Ostram and was declared fit for service, the next day he was sent to Cracow. He is lucky, if the catarrh does not return after such treatment. His original petition has not yet been decided, and I have not given up all hope. Johrnsdorf needs him desperately and in Cracow he is pretty well useless. Erich has been treated for one week in Komendorf; so far it's done him good, although he is awfully tired. he is getting to be quite stout, but has had no gall or liver trouble. Stephen was ordered to be an inspection officer in a hospital and would be quite satisfied, if he could devote an hour a day to his business. So far this has been impossible. I do not know how he will manage, but somehow it should work.

Yesterday at Ernstens I heard that you were able to find a position for Wartenberger. A miracle these days! I can imagine how pleased you must be, and Gretl must even be happier.

I have almost daily good news from Ernst. So far he has been well and has remained uninjured which is not true for all his comrades. He has been promoted to assistant surgeon and dreams of a fourteen day leave. Unfortunately, it will have to be a dream for a while. At times he reports most interesting things, but often he just complains that he is bored. I send him newspapers and light reading. Perhaps the enclosed letter might interest you, retum it to me some time. It will show you how young he is in many ways.

I discontinued the Neue Freie Presse, as did many of my friends. In the last years the quality of the paper declined; in addition I found their endless discussion of all war dispatches quite unbearable. The final straw was their behavior during the days of the Jubilee. Even the smallest of congratulations was printed and, on the day that Lemberg was taken by the Russians, the paper published an editorial about their jubilee. That was too much for me. I now read the Tageblatt. I must admit that I find it hard. I was used to the Neue Freie Presse and find it difficult to find my way in the Tageblatt. I hope I will remain firm.

You probably know the Joke that everybody has five sides now: the four known sides and the well informed one. The latter one told me yesterday that things were going extraordinarily well, better than anyone could imagine. I hope they are right.

In the hospital we have mostly patients with frozen limbs and pneumonia; the very serious injuries are less frequent. Everyone collects now with holy eagerness for war bonds, singing and playing. Important action is also taking place to raise money for prostheses. But I disagree with some of the things going on. For some poor devil a simple wooden leg would be more helpful. Certainly people will find this out before long.

Well, enough for today - perhaps you will say too much!

I hug you and Hedwig and remain as always, your Helene

Mitzi and Victor were here for three days for Malwine's birthday. She had a bad cold and the coming events showed in her figure, but not nearly as much as I expected. The baby should appear at the end of April. Ernst more or less always the same, a slight cough and tendency to tire easily; but on the whole things are not too bad.


Baden, Jullenhof
July 12, 1915

My dear Hedwig,

I have before me two letters and a postcard by Fritz from Bregenz, which I should answer right away. The card is from the ninth, but the letters took a long time. I regret very, very much the news about Lotte; I hope it is not as serious a case as mine was. The doctor tells me that children get well much faster than old people; he also thinks that one has to watch the heart carefully. Please send me some news as soon as possible. I am so sorry for Gretl. To have to worry about your dear little child in these terrible times - that is just too much! I think it will be difficult for you, if you have to take care of the child before she is quite recovered, especially since your wonderful help does not seem to be well right now.

On the third, four months will have passed since I got sick, but by now I am better. I limp along with the help of a cane, and at times I am quite nimble - but then I have bad hours again. However, I try to be content. I am no longer in pain, but the nerves in the knee are badly damaged and some movements are still impossible. I regularly take warm baths, but do not really believe that they help me very much. The whole thing takes a long time and it does not seem to be influenced by the weather, wind or dampness. By the time I am very old, I'll probably be fine.

Your description of your large harvest of fruits and vegetables sounds delightful and so very vivid and so full of life. I did not realize that you are so brilliant in your housework. I myself vegetate in an overcrowded hotel, full of mostly unpleasant people and would just love to have you here with me - what a pity that Meersburg is so far away. I really should be glad to have found his refugee where I do not have to worry about keeping house. At this point I would find it hard to live with all the little everyday excitements. I will stay here until September, since even the shorter trips would be hard for me at this point.

Richard stayed in Johrnsdorf for three days and was better pleased with the harvest than he had feared. Erich is still nearby and Ernst, who is stationed somewhere, is healthy and enormously busy. He believes that a short visit soon might not be impossible.

Enough now! Do give up the work in the army hospital - Fritz needs you so badly. I am sure you could look after many ill soldiers much closer to home.

Warmest wishes to you both, your Helene

LITERATUR - Letters to Fritz Mauthner, Translation by Eleanor Alexander, Winter 2001
  1. Mährisch Schönberg = Sumperk, Moravia Czechoslovakia has the feel of a mountain town. For the last two centuries it was a thriving textile town, at the forefront of a language frontier.)
  2. Brioni Italy, now Brijuni Islands in Croatia, summer resort. Pola, now Pula, occupied by Rome in 2 B.C., was the summer residence of Yugoslavia President Tito. Since 1983 part of Brijuni National Park. Pola became chief naval base and arsenal of the Hapsburg Empire; ceded to Italy after World War I and to Croatia after World War II.
  3. Abbazia (Italy) Opatija, W. Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. noted summer and winter resort; near Fiume. November 15, 1911