the origin of free love: I

We had felt that perhaps we were wrong inside, but we had never imagined it so bad – D.H Lawrence

These are some facts about Therese Huber between 19 and 25.

She was born in Gottingen, the daughter of a well known professor, Christian Gottlob Heyne, and Therese Heyne, born Weiss, in May, 1764. She was thus a little older than the revolutionary generation, those born in the 1770s.

According to Therese Huber’s correspondence, her first memories were of her mother – of her mother being ill. This was when she was three. “I was never my Mother’s favorite, certainly not, I was ugly, bulky and probably never brilliant. Until my thirteenth year, I don’t remember anybody ever tell me I had a mind or that I was droll.” Of her mother she says, further, that she was “no housewife, we were raised in filth and disorder.” Her earliest memories were of her stained clothing. Moreover, her mother had “a lover until she died, almost in her forty fifth year.” Her lover lived in the house. He was a music student by the name of Forkel.
Therese always had the fantasy that she had been adopted.

Therese Huber later wrote about her first husband, Georg Forster: “He had the fortune of unpretty men, that women had to come to meet him half way, which, with his very soft heart, always vouchsafed the joy of a very intense friendship.”

At eighteen, Therese was mad to get out of her house and the town of Gottingen. By this time, she had a stepmother. Georg Forster, her father’s friend, though much older than her, promised to get her out of the house. So she accepted his proposal for marriage in early 1784.. He promptly took off for Vilnius, where he’d been promised a position. He was gone for eighteen months.

Therese promptly set out for Gotha to care for a sick friend, Auguste Schneider, the mistress of the Baron of Gotha. In a letter, Therese wrote a friend that “people’s image of me as a coquette, the girl in a novel, had begun to disappear, and one sees only the girl of reason, whose lively foolishness is forgiveable on account of her good heart.” (41) But if she thought of herself, now, as calming down and assuming the dignity of the betrothed woman, she found, on her return to Gottingen, that things were difficult for a headstrong girl whose older, ugly fiance was in Vilnius. She was surrounded by admirers in her father’s house, while her father remained at his desk and her stepmother remained unconcerned – a situation that Henry James would have known what to do with. It was now that she encountered a man, FLM Meyer, who proved to be, as her biographer Geiger puts it, ‘fateful’ – misfortunate - to her. Later she wrote a friend that “Meyer led or ruled me, for he took my childish virginity in thought and deed.”

Meyer was a well known writer, enjoyed by Herder’s literary public . He was, according to Geiger, ‘shamelesslessly” egotistical. And he couldn’t do without women. He moved in that Enlightenment society under the motto that he couldn’t, ‘for the sake of one woman, be untrue to the whole sex.”
At the same time there was a friend. Henry James, too, would have given Therese the ambiguous friend. This friend was the most ambiguous of the Romantic divas, Therese’s “evil spirit”, according to her biographer, Ludwig Geiger, Karoline Michaelis. Geiger describes her as “sensuous and without morals already as a girl.” Over her lifetime, Karoline was married thrice, once to a man named Boehmer, then, when he died, to August Schlegel – this marriage was partly because she’d been banned for revolutionary activities in Gottingen when it was occupied by the French, and partly because she’d scandalized the town by having a child as the result of an affair with a French soldier - and then finally, in Jena, marrying Schelling. According to Geiger, this woman urged Therese to marry Forster, who she – Karoline – knew Therese didn’t love – out of jealousy. When Karoline and Schelling were living together in Jena, Hegel came to stay with them for a year. He knew the two well. When she died, he wrote a letter to a friend, expressing his relief and joy that she was gone. She had an effect on people.

In 1785, Forster came back from Vilnius. He then “committed out of weakness or goodness or blindness one of the unbelievable errors of his error strewn life: instead of standing apart from the third man [Meyer], coolly, peacefully, with the intention and the hope of driving the memory of his intruder gradually out of the heart of his bride … he entered into the intoxicated state of friendship, full of illusions, that filled both of them. Soon he was using the brotherly ‘du’ on the newcomer and the secret lover; Meyer became his “Assad”, he appeared as a member of the “trinity” in the letters to theological friends. “Forster was more enthusiastic than both of us,” Therese wrote 20 years later, “had us all swear eternal love, and never asked for a kiss from me that I should not also offer Meyer.” [44]