The Papers of George Boole, F.R.S. (1815-1864)

Section 1

B. Letters of Maryann Boole

II. Letters from Maryann Boole

i. to Miss Davis


92 pages
[ ]

From Maryann in Linburgh in Germany writing to Miss Davis in the form of a journal recording her stay in Germany. She requests that her 'Travellers Journal' may be passed on to her family and kept for her as a memento. Part I 6 Nov [ ], she left for Germany in the Heles McGregor. The passage was rough and she reports every lady on board was ill until they reached the Elbe, 'a broad noble river.' She was then met by a friend of a friend, Mr Ehlers De Hembing, whose English sister-in-law was the sister of Sir Thomas Tobin of Ballincollig, Cork. She comments, 'my first impressions of the German character are most favourable. Their hospitality appears to equal that of the Irish.' She then travelled to Henburg where she was met by a Mr. Weusthoff, and from there to Hamburg where Dr. Blennenthal's (her employer) son met her. She was a little dismayed by the Blennenthals house, as it was full of tobacco smoke and she found the sitting room comfortless: 'but I reflected that I had not come here to look for comfort and a day's familiarity with the place has made it look better.' Dr. Blennenthal himself is an invalid, crippled with a spinal or paralytic affliction, and she is to look after his five children. She finds Lineburg 'an exceedingly curious town', full of narrow streets with houses leaning towards each other. She also finds German cooking very different to what she is used to: 'I doubt whether I shall ever like very tough meat nor [ ] and herrings and mixtures of apples and potatoes.' Part II Nov - 27 Dec [ ], in which she details some of the historical and political background of Lineberg. Dr. Blennenthal is himself a senator although too ill to take any active part in government. Salt manufacture is an important industry in Lineberg, with enough manufactured there to supply all Germany. Lime trees border all public roads. She is getting to know the suburbs well as she goes daily for a long walk. It is bitterly cold, but she, prefers this to the moistness of Cork. 'Shooting and smoking' she says are the chief pastimes taught to both boys and girls from a very young age, and she adds 'Master Fritz Blennenthal although only eight years old is already an adept smoker. Music is played outdoors everyday by the military band, but ladies are not meant to stop and listen to it.' She was at a musical evening of Mendelhossen and Weber, one of eight similar concerts to be staged over the winter and costing 4s.6d.; her employers the Blennenthals are not musical. Her tastes have adapted themselves to German Cookery, and so far she has found no meat so tough as the first joint she tasted. She mentions soups are made from all sorts of material, some better than others. The vegetables come 'dressed in very strange fashions', with a favourite being a mixture of apples and potatoes, which she doesn't like at all. Pimpernichil rye bread which is made only at Osnabugh is considered a great delicacy but she finds it close, heavy and sour. She describes a normal day in the house: the family breakfast at 7.30, and then the boys go to school at 8.00, they dine at one, have coffee at 4.00 and then dine at 8.00 again. Coffee parties are very common, with Sunday being the favourite day for going visiting. Once a week they have an English evening when lady friends of the Blennenthals come to tea, after which Dr. Blennenthal begins reading from some English book which the ladies then continue. Maryann by request corrects their mispronunciations and reads last and longest. She feels Germans seem to associate gatherings with the attainment of a pursuit. Once a week they gather to read poetry also. She went also to a practise session of the local young people's choir and exclaims: 'It was almost worthwhile to come to Germany for the music alone.' On Sundays there are three services during which the shops close, but reopen for the rest of the day, and ladies spend the day visiting each other. She remarks the churches are made of stone and are very large and very cold. However the service is much simpler and shorter than in England. Christmas is a very important festival in Germany, with secret preparations being made leading up to Christmas Eve when the Christmas trees are lit, the decorations which mothers prepare in secret. On Christmas Day presents are exchanged. In the Blennenthal's house after church on Christmas Eve at 7.30 p.m. the folding doors of the drawing room were thrown open to reveal a huge Christmas tree. She found the sight so impressive and beautiful she wonders why it is not more widely adopted in England. So far she has found Germans to be very kind and friendly, and much less 'slaves of fashion' and conventions of society than the English. At first she felt lost amongst such different people and customs, but now she sometimes feels so at home she forgets she is in a foreign country. She mentions her happiness that the rights of women are so well upheld in Germany, as a wife gains her husband's title e.g. Frau Doctor. She is making good progress with her German, and is getting three lessons a week from a German lady at a cost of 16 lessons for 12 shillings. English is cultivated in Germany and takes the place French does in England. However she still finds it hard work to sustain a conversation in German. To meet people, she says, you must first call on them before they will call on you. She mentions each German state has its own coinage, and she finds this very confusing. In Hanover the currency has been changed to that of Prussia, but the old currency is still in circulation as well so things are very confusing. Part III She describes the New Year's celebration which are second only to Christmas. At the parties children throw pieces of [bread] into cold water, the shape it takes will then reveal their future. She remarks Germans dance remarkably well and very fast. It is considered improper for a lady over 25 to dance, and for any woman over 30 to dance is scandalous. She remarks she doesn't enjoy the German balls. She also finds the all female parties rather slow. Schools in Lineberg are considered very good, and some English and Scots families settle there for a few years while their children are being educated. She mentions the peasantry of the area speak low German, and remarks they seem quite well off, but can never rise to another rank. The peasant women wear a peculiar lace cap and lots of jewellery. At the age of 21 all men must enter their names for conscription, and are then chosen by a lottery to join the army. Their pay is very low, three shillings per week and two loaves, so many soldiers work as servants while off duty. Also no officer is allowed to marry without having 16,000 thalers. She remarks German young ladies seem to have the same weakness for officers as their English counterparts. She also is quite puzzled by the fact German girls take no exercise but yet can dance for seven hours consecutively and describes the betrothal and wedding ceremonies of one young lady. She feels German ladies are not as grave and refined as the English ones and are given to swearing. Part IV She states Easter is even more highly thought of than Christmas, and it is seen as the beginning of the new school year and also as the correct time to change classes. The promotion of children to higher classes takes place in a large public ceremony, and confirmation, which is taken more seriously in Germany than England, is also performed at Easter. Mentions drunkenness amongst the lower classes is much less common there than England. One of Dr. Blennenthal's sons had scarlet fever and part of his treatment consisted of rubbing his body three times daily with bacon-fat. Part V 2 June [ ] She remarks on how industriously all German ladies knit. One woman she knows has over 70 pairs of stockings all which she made herself. The girls leave home for one year after their confirmation to go to another family to learn housekeeping and to be weaned away from home. She remarks housekeeping is the main business of a woman's life. The journal then finishes in the form of a letter to George Boole, with an added unfinished journal of a trip to the [Hanz] mountains she took with some friends detailing the stops the train took, and the scenery she viewed on the way.