Augusta’s First Love

Spring, the Fence by Václav Brožík

Spring, the Fence by
Václav Brožík

“They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.”

(Ernest Dowson, Vitae Summa Brevis)

The Summer Sejour to Gustafsberg, 1845

In the summer of 1845, Augusta turned 18. She had just finished her schooling in Stockholm and maybe her mother Anna thought it was time for her to meet a suitable young man. Why not at a seaside resort on the Swedish west coast?

During the spring, the resorts and spas advertised their facilities, the healing benefits of their mineral waters, and what the guests could expect with regards to entertainment and food. There were several resorts on the west coast. Mother Anna decided on Gustafsberg, a fashionable spa close to the town of Uddevalla.

Advertisement for Gustafsberg's Spa in Aftonbladet, 8 May 1845

Advertisement for Gustafsberg’s Spa in Aftonbladet, 8 May 1845

Mother Anna’s letter to Augusta, April 1845

“Your brother today gives you a present of 10 Rdr Bco that he wants you to use for making a dress of the silk fabric he gave you for Christmas as he heard that I have no money for that.”

Anna then gives Augusta advice about an alternative use for the money, such as making a small coat or collar to go with her black dress, and the importance of black lace on such an item because at the spa, “you can’t just run around in your little blue [dress]”. Final fashion decisions can wait until after the 1st of May.

“I am currently having your straw hat refurbished for everyday wear. I will send it to you when it is ready. I can’t afford to buy more than one so it has to be fairly beautiful. You asked me to sell the jewels. First of all, it wouldn’t be enough and secondly, you would not get paid enough. But on the other hand, it would be to your advantage if you used them yourself.”

I always have so much to do and a thousand expenses for this costly journey. We have to be there just before Midsummer and must necessarily be back here again 8 days before Lejdenfrost’s return, so we will spend 8 days there during the 2nd term. Many rooms have already been taken for the 1st term so I don’t think that will be a problem.”

Emilia Breitholtz' letter to Augusta - postmarked in Stockholm, 30 June 1845

Emilia Breitholtz’ letter to Augusta – postmarked in Stockholm, 30 June 1845

That is all we know about Augusta’s and her mother’s visit to Gustafsberg. Augusta didn’t start keeping a diary until 1847 and there are no letters from her during this time. But she did save an envelope of a letter that was addressed to her at Gustafsberg. From the coat-of-arms on the seal, we could discern that it was from the family Breitholz, so most likely from her friend Emilia Breitholtz.

Augusta’s First Love

Did Augusta meet a suitable young man at Gustafsberg? The clue is a letter from her friend Lotten in the fall of 1845. Augusta must have written to Lotten about her summer sejour and about a young man who she realized she could not marry.

Lotten’s letter to Augusta, October 1845

“My own beloved girl!

You can’t believe how happy I got when I received your dear, loving letter. You really made your poor friend wait for it; but I will not scold you, only thank you from my heart that you remembered your Lotten and, even more so, because you want to write to me in full confidence. You can’t believe how happy it made me. Thank you so much my little Gusta.

Believe me, I will not betray your trust. In my heart, you can lay down both your joy and your sorrow.

I am very sorry my good Augusta that you cannot get your relatives’ permission to a choice that your heart has made. Augusta! I am totally inexperienced in these things, but I love you so much because you listened to your senses instead of your heart which, sadly, many do not. But what would the result be? Indeed, poverty and misery. And I truly believe that “when Poverty enters through the door, Love flies out of the window.” Perhaps I would not believe that if I had been in love myself, but there are too many stories confirming that the proverb is true. But Augusta, it is difficult for a young heart to accept that matters of money could separate two people who love each other. It’s really strange.

I want you to promise me something, my good Augusta. Don’t get married so soon, before you have had a chance to choose. Do not believe, because your first love could not be fulfilled, that you cannot be happy with someone else. You could find a man for whom you have deep respect and who would also be a good friend. But dear Augusta, be careful. I really shudder when I hear about these engagements settled during a ball. Imagine, frivolously entering into a bond for life! Your whole life! When you think about it, it’s horrible.

So you should be careful in making the right choice. Sweet Gusta, promise me that, do you hear me! You’re still so young. You know how deeply your Lotten cares for you and how happy I want you to be. Maybe you think I have given a long sermon, but I may be excused by my friendship for you. One thing, when you really want to pour out your heart, write to me.”

Lotten’s letter to Augusta, November 1845

“You can’t believe how I both laughed and was ready to weep over your love, as you and I call this infatuation. I was glad because you would never have been able to get the one you loved anyway. But I was sad, as you weren’t able to distinguish between a fleeting infatuation and true love. You would never have mistaken it if you had thought it over and tested yourself. What was it that you actually loved about him – his looks and some chivalrous traits? That is obvious because certainly, you couldn’t judge his character during a bathing-sejour when he perhaps always made you his [?]. And thus, he only showed his beautiful side. I only wish (and excuse me for this wish) that he will also just as easily bear the loss of you.”

Our Upcoming Summer Sejour to Gustafsberg

This summer, Kerstin and I are making our own summer sejour to Gustafsberg. We are going to stay in the bathhouse from Augusta’s time – now a hostel. And we are going to swim in our authentic bathing dresses that we are making. Let’s see how that goes! And we are going to visit the archives and see what entertainment they offered during the summer of 1845.

And maybe, just maybe, we can find a log of guests in 1845 and possibly find some candidates for Augusta’s first love?

I can only hope.

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