Marie Gundert

© Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin

When Marie Hesse (1842-1902), née Gundert, widow of the late Charles Isenberg, gives birth to her son Hermann, she is just under 25 years old. In autumn of 1874, the missionary's daughter born in Talasseri in India had married her father's assistant, Johannes Hesse. The couple have a total of six children, two of them dying in infancy, and Marie also brings two children from her first marriage. "On Monday, July 2, 1877, after a difficult day, God in his mercy grants us, at six thirty in the evening, the child we had longed for so fervently, our Hermann, a very big, heavy child who is immediately hungry, turns his light blue eyes towards the brightness and, of his own accord, twists his head towards the light - a magnificent specimen of a strong, healthy boy. I am writing this today, July 20, eighteen days later. Am again up almost the entire day, still very weak and stiff only in the legs. The little fellow is very good, comes only once during the night, and sleeps six hours at a stretch during the day. Johnny is so happy with his son, and the three children are rejoicing over their little brother," noted Marie Hesse, who kept a diary for 40 years. These personal memoirs convey the impression of a mentally alert woman who had inherited the French temperament of her mother. Hermann Hesse on his mother: "She was the daughter of noteworthy parents of firm character - the Swabian father Gundert and the French-speaking Swiss mother Dubois - yet who differed from one another quite considerably in terms of overall personality, and she managed to combine the hereditary features of the two origins, which were in part absolutely contrary to one other, in quite remarkable fashion, uniting them to fashion something new. From her French Swiss mother, she has inherited not only the figure, the big dark eyes with a look that is not only kind but also penetrating, and the shape of her face but also the energy and passionateness; yet this is tempered and softened quite magnificently by what she inherited from her father's side."

(From „Meine Mutter“, unpublished fragment)