CONFIDENTIAL NOTES ON THE LIFE OF MADAME HAHNEMANN. ( Written by Melanie Hahnemann in 1846, in defence against an accusation of practising homoeopathy without the right of doing so) (Translated from the original French.).
Had I not been forced by imperative circumstances I should never have written this, although these details may be interesting in themselves apart from medical science. Having uninterruptedly devoted my whole life to good works it is painful to be obliged to speak of them. Good deeds done in secret are such a treasure to a heart which has the right to be proud of them, that neither the praise of the world, nor the glory, otherwise so agreeable, resulting from the knowledge of these good deeds, can compensate for the loss of that secret enjoyment. This applies all the more to woman who by the law of exclusion, which man instituted against her, constantly finds opposition, which makes it impossible for her to give expression to her intellectual capacities. But, when she possesses these in supper abundance, to an overflowing measure, especially if morally pure, she becomes all the more an object of jealousy and aversion to men, as well as to the every-day type of woman. The women whom men find it in their own interest to deceive on this point have been trained to it and misunderstand the esprit de corps and the dignity of their own sex. In other words they arouse the envy of all, and the censure of men who persecute them if they can, as is apparent in this case, until the greatness of their talents, or their virtue forces them to be silent on the subject of their obvious superiority which they take great care not to display although inwardly they clearly recognise it.
Smart women who are gifted, at times find favour with men because they have become their toys, and men are fond of that which they own; even when these have become faithless, when they have committed adultery, men try to defend them, or pretend not to see. I say, at times because whilst extending an interested protection, man never allows woman to overstep the barrier that his tyrannical spirit has erected in the intellectual field into which he was powerless to prevent her entering. Women do not need man’s permission to become musicians painters, poets, writers, mathematicians, astronomers, or scientists, but man has arrogated to himself the right to forbid them the practice of certain liberal professions, in which they might even excel, occasionally.
This subject would bear amplification, but it is not our intention to speak of it here. We are not dealing here with woman, but with Madame Hahnemann, the physicians who cures, and to prove that she was obliged to act in the way she did.
My father’s name is d’ Hervilly’ he is man of great knowledge and intelligence who loves me dearly. His gentleness and kindness are indescribable. He was my first tutor, and his first teachings were more like endearments than lessons. The purest reason and the soundest philosophy formed the basis of his precepts which he formulated in a simple manner, graduating them in accordance with my young intelligence. From childhood onwards he taught me to seek for the truth of things by pointing out to me their fallacies.
I was born with an extraordinary character which manifested itself in early childhood; I never played but was always thinking and, therefore, appeared sad without actually feeling so. Thence forth the ordinary life was insufficient for my mind, which found in its own contemplation a much greater enjoyment than in games and pleasures. I was happiest when I could withdraw into a secluded corner of the house, or into the country, and give myself up to all those uncoordinated thoughts which then passed through my mind like the rosettes of a kaleidoscope without troubling about the outside world. And if at times I felt the need of self-expression I would record my sensations in formless verses on the beauty of nature, which I already adored, and through improvised melodies to the modulations of which my mother’s friend were won’t to listen with astonishment. I did not wish to learn to read because the alphabet bored me, and distracted me from my dear thoughts; all this took place before I was eight years old. However, I then learned to read in a few hours through a happy idea of my father’s who being distressed by my ignorance made me a present of “A Thousand and One Nights,” and read one of the tales to me, and when he saw my joy and curiosity, he said, “all these volumes are full of equality interesting tales, here they are learn, to read and you will know them.” The next morning I could spell, and three days later I could read fluently; from that time onwards mountains of books could no longer satisfy my burning desire for knowledge; I despised children’s books; I was given more solid intellectual food, and my father charmed at the predispositions which revealed themselves in me, gave me an excellent education. The love of art joined that of science; I became a very good musician; I studied painting in which I made rapid progress in a very short time.
My mother, whose memory is sacred to me, had received such scanty education as is given in convents; she was very distressed because they were unable to teach me to sew, and she would often say to my father, “it is fortunate that our daughter is not a boy, we should never be able to do anything with him; she does not wish to learn to knit.” This is a sample of her deductions which were all equally logical! My mother was a very beautiful woman, but as her intelligence had not been developed she had remained commonplace, as is usually the case.
She had married very young. At nine or ten years of age I was already tall, and the growing daughter became the sundial marking the hour of her mother’s charms, which the latter treasured very much. The great love she had felt for the infant child cooled gradually, and I became an encumbrance to her desire to attract; I was thus always the objective of her bad temper in matters concerning which I was absolutely innocent. She tyrannised over me more and more most unjustly, for at that time I was extremely gentle and loving. I adored my mother and tried incessantly to please her but was always repulsed. Meanwhile the child was growing into girlhood, the comeliness of youth was developing in a body which had been fairly well equipped by nature. I had noticed the jealousy with which I inspired her, and therefore, partly from inclination and partly from logical reasoning, I dressed very simply, and contented myself with scrupulous cleanliness without adornment, in order not to arouse her jealousy or to appear frivolous.
All my efforts to appease my mother were useless; she would take me to dances against my wish because I was invited and she did not dare to refuse, but the next morning she would punish me for the success I had achieved, being a very good dancer; briefly, she conceived such animosity against me that it almost amounted to insanity. My good and sensible but weak father had allowed her to dominate the family life completely, and he moaned over the absurdities of his wife without being able to bring her to a better point of reasoning. His remonstrances, his entreaties only irritated her all the more; her passion knew no limit; eventually matters came to such a pitch that fearing for my life, he resolved to remove his beloved child from such torment. He had watched with joy the development of my leanings towards art through a series of rather remarkable paintings. Madame le Thiere who knew of my domestic troubles and was sorry for me, asked my father to entrust me to her care. She took me as a boarder and became my adoptive mother. Guillion le Thiere, painter of the picture, “The Sons of Brutus, “had taught me the first principles of painting. Once under the protection of my new adoptive family I became as happy as possible being separated from my own people. My father remained for me what he had always been, and his love compensated me for the sorrow of being exiled.
My mother had hurt all my feelings; the thought of being entirely dependent upon her as she was the ruler in the house, became to my sensitive mind an unbearable torment. I felt a strong inward impulsive to become something, and conceived the idea of earning my own living by my work. I became a painter. My friends sold my paintings, which were very much in demand, for large sums and while my mother kept a very large house in Paris, I was working in order to secure my own independence. I was very successful and gained medals in the exhibitions, which King Charles X presented to me himself.
I worked with pleasure, and the fruits of my talent soon became considerable; I was much in demand, and my other social talents enabled me to achieve success everywhere. Illustrious friends surrounded and protected me. I will only name a few; La Fayette; the Abbe Gregoire; the Consul Masclet; the Marshal Gouvion St. Cyr; Nepomucene Lemercier, author of Agamemnon; Persier, who revised architecture; Fontaine, also an architect, whom Napoleon and Louis Philippe honoured with their special friendship; the Princess of salm Dick, a poetess; Andrieux, also a poet, who wished to teach me literature which he professed so admirably, and whose voluminous and interesting correspondence are proofs of his esteem and friendship; and lastly Gohier, the last President of the French Republic, who left me his name in his will, with the entreaty to add it to mine, which can be proved from the enclosed document. The serious nature of my character made me seek always the company of superior men who were almost all friends of my father, and who encouraged the studious young girl. Besides, from my earliest childhood I had always sought all that was morally beautiful, which I held to be of much higher value than talents, and which I always tried to cultivate.