Domestic Character

Catharine had been the mother of six children, three sons and three
daughters. 1. _John_, born June 7, 1526; studied law, and became a civil
officer in the service of the Elector of Saxony; died October 27, 1575,
aged 50 years. 2. _Elizabeth_; born December 10, 1527, died August 3,
1528. 3. _Magdalena_; born May 4, 1529; died September 20, 1542, aged
14; 4. _Martin_; born November 7, 1531—studied theology; died March 3,
1565, aged 34. 5. _Paul_; born January 28, 1533—studied medicine, and
became court physician to the Elector of Saxony; died March 8, 1593,
aged 61 years. 6. _Margaret_; born December 17, 1534; died 1570, aged 36
years.

Luther was accustomed to say, “The more children we have, the more
happiness we enjoy. They are the loveliest fruits and bonds of the
domestic life.” He was never more happy than in the circle of his
family, and whoever saw him there forgot that he was the man who spoke
without fear or trembling with emperors, kings, and nobles. He was much
averse to noisy entertainments. “I lose too much time at such festal
gatherings with the citizens. I do not know what demon it is that
prevents me from abandoning them, and yet they do me much harm,” said
he. It was in the bosom of his family and in the company of a few select
friends in which he sought the most agreeable relaxation from the
burdensome cares of his life, and gathered fresh vigor for his arduous
labors. Surrounded by his wife and children, and by the side of his
intimate friends, as Spalatin, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, Melanchthon, and a
few others, he took part in the innocent amusements of life with a heart
full of gratitude to God, who favored him with these evening
relaxations. In 1543, he celebrated his 62d birthday, and invited
Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, George Major, and Eber; it was the
last time he celebrated that day. Subjects of solemn import came up for
conversation. Luther, in a prophetic spirit, said, “As long as I live,
with God’s help, there will be no danger, and Germany will continue
peaceful; but when I die, then pray! There will be really need of
prayer; our children shall have to grasp their weapons, and there will
be sad times for Germany. Hence, I say, pray diligently after my death.”
He then turned to Eber particularly, and said, “Your name is Paul; hence
be careful, after Paul’s example, to preserve and defend the doctrine of
that Apostle.”

Luther was a man of a sociable disposition, always enjoying conversation
enlivened by wit and edifying anecdote. He excelled in spicy
conversation himself, and was the life of every circle of distinguished
men. But he especially found the sweetest enjoyment in conversation with
his wife and children, and often, too, from the innocent prattle of the
latter he derived no ordinary edification. When his heart was sad, he
would take one of them into his arms and tenderly caress it. Thus, on
more than one occasion, he took the youngest child, and, pressing it to
his bosom, with deep emotion exclaimed, “Ah! what a blessing these
little ones are, of which the vulgar and the obstinate are not worthy.”
On another occasion he said, “I am richer than all papal theologians in
the world, for I am contented with little. I have a wife and six
children, whom God has bestowed on me; such treasures the papistic
divines do not deserve.” Little Martin was once playing with a dog;
“See,” said Luther, who took a religious view of the most ordinary
circumstances, and thus also in social life he became the teacher of
those around him; “See,” said he, “this child preaches God’s word in its
actions; for God says, ‘Have, then, dominion over the fishes of the sea
and the beasts of the earth,’ for the dog suffers himself to be governed
by the child.” On one occasion, this same child was speaking of the
enjoyments of heaven, and said “In heaven, loaves of bread grow on the
trees.” The father replied with a smile, “The life of children is the
happiest and best of all, for they have no worldly cares; they know
nothing about fanatics and errorists in the church, and have only pure
thoughts and pleasant reflections.” He was amusing himself one day with
the child, and said, “We were all once in this same happy state of mind
in Eden; simple, upright, without guile or hypocrisy—we were sincere,
just as this child speaks of God, and in earnest.”

At another time, he remarked that Martin afforded him special delight
because he was his youngest child. “We do not find such natural kindness
in old persons; it does not flow so freely and fully. That which is
colored or feigned loses our favor; it is not so impressive; it does not
afford as much pleasure as that which springs up naturally from the
heart. Hence children are the best playmates; they speak and do
everything sincerely and naturally. How Abraham’s heart must have beat,”
he continued, “when he was called on to sacrifice his son! I do not
think he told Sarah anything about it! I could contend with God if he
demanded anything similar of me.” Here the maternal feeling of Catharine
was roused, and she observed, “I cannot believe that God could demand of
parents the slaughter of their children.” He removed her objections by
reminding her of the greater sacrifice which God the Father made by
offering his own son as a ransom for our sins.

Margaretta was once speaking to her father of Jesus, the angels, and
heaven. Deeply moved, he exclaimed, “Oh! how much better than ours is
the faith and life of children! The word which they hear they accept
with joy and without any doubts, and are happy. But we old fools have
painful anxieties, and dispute long. Well has Christ said, ‘Unless ye be
converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of
heaven.’” Christmas, particularly, was a season of joyful festival in
Luther’s family. No annual fair, such as are to this day held in
Germany, passed by in which he did not purchase presents for his
children. With deep regret he wrote to his wife, when he was in Torgau,
in 1532, that he could find nothing in that town to buy for the little
ones at home.

Vocal and instrumental music was a frequent source of family
entertainment, especially after supper. Luther himself accompanied it
with the flute or the lute, both of which he played skilfully. He often
invited accomplished singers, and thus held family concerts in his
house. When his time and the weather permitted, he repaired to what was
afterwards called _Luther’s Spring_, which he himself discovered, and
over which, after his marriage, he had a neat summer-house erected. He
spent many an hour of pleasant enjoyment in his garden, with his wife
engaged with her needle, and the children playing around him. Here he
often invited his friends to exhibit to them the luxuriant fruit of his
own cultivation. As the children increased in years, especially the
sons, he made them his companions. He took them with him on his numerous
journeys, and they accompanied him on his last and eventful tour to the
place of his birth, and, as it proved, the place of his death. That he
might enjoy the society of his wife as much as possible, he pursued his
labors with her at his side or invited her into his study. She often
copied his manuscripts for the press, and otherwise rendered aid in
writing. He communicated to her everything of special interest relating
to the progress of the Reformation not only orally when at home, but by
letter during his absence. He also frequently read aloud for her
entertainment, and sometimes even extracts from the books of his
opponents, such as Erasmus and others. He often gave her striking
passages of Scripture to commit to memory, such as Psalm 31, which was
particularly applicable to her condition after his death, just as though
he had anticipated it years before. She, on the other hand, often urged
him to the performance of pressing duties, especially answering letters.
Her participation in his affairs was kindly reciprocated by him. He
patiently listened to all her requests, and in his letters executed many
of her commissions. It was only when he desired to complete some work
which allowed no postponement that he dispensed with her presence. At
such times, he locked himself in his study for days, and ate nothing but
bread and salt, that he might, without interruption, pursue the work in
hand. This often occurred, and he would not allow himself to be
disturbed. On one occasion he had been thus locked up for three days;
she sought him everywhere—shed bitter tears—knocked at all the doors and
called him, but no one answered. She had the door opened by a locksmith,
and found her husband profoundly absorbed in the explanation of the 22d
Psalm. She was proceeding to reprimand him for occasioning such painful
anxiety, but he was impatient of the interruption to his studies,
pointed to the Bible, and said, “Do you think, then, that I am doing
anything bad? do you not know that I must work as long as it is day, for
the night cometh in which no man can work?” But his tone and look
sufficiently indicated to her that he was, after all, not unduly
excited. At his social assemblies, his walks for recreation, and short
excursions into the country, she was his inseparable companion as often
as circumstances permitted. When numerous business calls necessarily
compelled him to leave home, he wrote to her the most affectionate and
often the most humorous letters.

The birth of his first child (June 7, 1526,) afforded him peculiar
gratification. He communicated the fact to many of his correspondents in
a strain of pleasant humor, and, of course, received their
congratulations in return. The child was baptized soon after birth by
Dr. Rörer, and named _John_ by the grandfather. Bugenhagen, Jonas, and
the painter, Cranach, senior, were his godfathers. From his earliest
years this boy excited the liveliest hopes in his parents on account of
his uncommon mental qualities, and it was he who gave occasion to the
preparation by the father of several excellent books for children.
Luther possessed the rare faculty of letting himself down to the
capacity of children without himself becoming a child. This son’s name
often occurs in the letters of Luther, and he is always mentioned as a
lad of uncommon promise and an agreeable plaything to his father and
mother. He thus writes to Hausman: “Besides this, there is nothing new,
except that my Lord has blessed my Kate and made her a present of a
healthy son. Thanks and praise for his unspeakable goodness. Mother and
child send their respects to you.” Sometime after he wrote to Spalatin,
“My little Hans salutes you. He is now teething, and begins to scold
everybody about him with the most amiable reproaches. Kate also wishes
you every blessing, and particularly that you also may have a little
Spalatin, who may teach you what she boasts of having learned from her
boy, viz: the joys of matrimonial life, of which the Pope and his
satellites are not worthy.” Luther’s friends were much attached to this
child on account of his amiable disposition, and sent him many presents
suitable to his age. When the boy was yet but four years old, his father
wrote to him the following letter: “Grace and peace in Christ, my
dearest little son. It pleases me much to hear that you love to learn
and to pray. Continue in this good way, my child; when I come home I
will bring you a beautiful present. I know where there is a beautiful
garden into which many children go. They wear gilded garments and gather
all manner of fruit from under the trees; they sing, leap, and are
happy. They also have beautiful little horses with golden bridles and
silver saddles. I asked the man who owns the garden what sort of
children they were. He replied, ‘They are children who love to pray, to
learn and serve God.’ Then I said, ‘My dear sir, I also have a son
called little Hans Luther; may he not also go into the garden, that he,
too, may eat these beautiful apples and pears, and ride these nice
horses and play with these good children?’ He answered, ‘Every little
boy who loves to pray and learn, and is good, may come into the garden,
Lippus and Jost[18] also, and if they all come together they shall also
have all sorts of musical instruments, and dance and shoot with little
crossbows.’ And he pointed out to me a meadow in the garden suited for a
children’s playground, and there were hanging golden instruments of
music and beautiful silver crossbows. But it was yet early, and the
children had not yet eaten their breakfast, hence I could not wait to
see the children dance and play, and I said to the man, ‘Ah, my dear
sir, I will go without delay and write all this to my beloved little
son, Hans, that he may diligently pray, learn well, and be pious, so
that he, too, may come into this garden; but he has a little sister,
Lehna, whom he must bring with him.’ Then the man said, ‘It must be so;
go and write to him.’ For this reason, dear son, learn and pray, and
tell Lippus and Jost also to do the same, and then you shall all go into
the garden. I commend you to God. Kiss Lehna for me. Your dear Father,
M. L., 1530.”

The prudent discipline of the mother, exercised with tender earnestness,
gradually developed the moral and intellectual faculties of this youth
in an eminent degree, and this, combined with his religious and
scientific attainments, as subsequently displayed, afforded the father
unspeakable gratification. In his 15th year this youth received the most
honorable testimonial of his industry in study and general excellence of
character from John William, the second son of the Elector, John
Frederick, promising further encouragement and aid in the prosecution of
his studies. When he was properly qualified by preliminary attainments
to attend a higher school, he was sent to the Gymnasium at Torgau.
Afterwards, he studied law at Wittenberg and Konigsberg, and on his
return from his travels in various countries of Europe he was appointed
Court Councillor by John William, in which office he subsequently served
under the brother of the Elector. He was dismissed at his own request,
and entered the service of Duke Albert in Konigsberg, and died October
28, 1575, aged 49 years.

His second child, Elizabeth, was born during the prevalence of the
contagious disease in Wittenberg before alluded to. She lived only nine
months, and Luther’s grief at her death was excessive. He thus writes to
Hausman: “Never could I have believed a parent’s heart could be so
tender towards children; seldom have I mourned so deeply. My sorrow is
like that of a woman.”

The death of his third child, Magdalena, at the age of 14, was a severe
affliction. She was a girl of unusual promise; amiable, gifted, and
pious. Her complete resignation to the will of God—her vivid conception
of the doctrines of the Bible—her strong faith in the Saviour, and her
filial and religious virtues, distinguished her far above many of her
tender years. She was for a long time confined to bed, and she felt that
her end was rapidly drawing nigh. She ardently desired to see her
brother John, who was a student at the academy at Torgau. The father
gratified her wish, and despatched a messenger to summon the absent son
to the death-bed of his sister. Luther, as far as was possible, watched
by the side of the dying child. Although the trial was severe, his
patient submission to the will of God was characteristic of the man and
the Christian. “Alas!” sighed he, “I love this child most tenderly; but
O, God, as it is thy will to take her to thyself, I cheerfully resign
her into thy hands.” Then he advanced to the bed and spoke to the
suffering child, “Magdalena, my daughter, you would willingly remain
with your father on earth, and yet you also desire to go to your Father
in heaven.” On which she replied, “Yes, dearest father, just as it
pleases God.” He continued, “Dearest child, the spirit is willing, but
the flesh is weak.” Overcome by emotion, he turned away and said: “Oh!
how I love this suffering child! but if the flesh is now so strong, what
will then the spirit be!—well, whether we live or die, we are the
Lord’s.” When she was breathing her last, the mother, overwhelmed with
sorrow, retired from the couch; Luther threw himself on his knees, wept
convulsively, and implored God to release the child from suffering; he
then took her by the hand—and she died. The father at once had recourse
to the Scriptures to seek consolation for his grievous loss. He opened
the book, and the passage, Romans 14; 7, first arrested his attention:
“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” This
expressive passage was as a balsam to his wounded heart. When the body
was deposited in the coffin, he said, “Thou dear Magdalena! how happy
thou art! O, dear Magdalena, thou wilt rise again, and wilt shine like a
star, yea, like the sun.” But the coffin having been made too small, he
said, “This bed is too small for her, now that she is dead. I am indeed
joyful in the spirit, but after the flesh I am very sad; the flesh is
slow to come to the trial; this separation troubles us exceedingly; it
is a marvellous thing to know that she is certainly happy, and yet for
me to be so sad!” When the people came to attend the funeral, and,
according to custom, addressed the Doctor, and said that they sincerely
condoled with him in this affliction, he said, “You should rejoice: I
have sent a saint to heaven, yea, a living saint. O! if only such a
death were ours! such a death I would be willing to die this moment!”
When one said, “That is indeed true; yet we all wish to retain our
relatives,” Luther replied, “Flesh is flesh and blood is blood. I
rejoice that she has passed over; I experience no sadness but that of
the flesh.” Again, he said to others present, “Be not grieved, I have
sent a saint to heaven, yea, I have sent two.” When she was buried, he
said, “It is the resurrection of the flesh,” and when they returned from
the funeral, he said, “Now is my daughter provided for, both as to body
and soul. We Christians have no cause to complain; we know that it must
be thus. We are perfectly assured of eternal life; for God, who, through
his Son and for the sake of his Son, has promised it unto us, cannot
lie.”

Throughout the whole of this trying event Luther showed all the
tenderness of an affectionate father, and all the resignation of a
Christian.

His second son, Martin, was tenderly cherished by the father. He himself
feared that the child would be spoiled by too much affectionate
attention and favoritism. In reference to this, he said, “The love of
parents is always stronger for the younger than the elder children, and
the more they require the care and protection of the parents the more
dear are they to them. Thus, my Martin is now my dearest treasure,
because he demands more of my attention and solicitude. John and
Magdalena can walk and talk and can ask for what they want, and do not
require so much watchful nursing.” But afterwards, Luther’s anxieties
about him were very great. “He is rather a wild bird,” said he, “and he
occasions me much solicitude.” But Martin, who was not without talents,
studied theology, and it was only continued ill-health that prevented
him from publicly assuming the office of a preacher. He spent his life
in private teaching. In an obituary notice of him, it is said that “he
possessed such strong mental faculties and such striking oratorical
powers, as even to have excited the admiration of his father.”

Of the third son, Paul, when yet a child, Luther thus spoke: “He is
destined to fight against the Turks,” alluding to the energy of
character then observed in him, and which was afterwards so strikingly
developed. And truly, this Paul, endowed as he was with unusual decision
and unshaken perseverance, was the most gifted of Luther’s sons, even if
he did not in all respects possess the heroic spirit of his father. He
was not only a zealous promoter of the science of Alchemy, so highly
prized at that day, but he was a distinguished chemist, and succeeded,
by his assiduous labors, in making many useful discoveries in Chemistry
and Medicine. He also possessed a thorough knowledge of ancient
languages. He was devoted with all his heart to the religious doctrines
which his father restored, and defended them with zeal and ability. He
was so strenuously attached to the orthodox system of theology, that he
once refused a very flattering call to the University of Jena on account
of the presumed heresies which the theologian, Victorine Striegel, had
promulgated at that seat of learning, and he soon afterwards received
the appointment of private physician to John Frederick II., at Gotha. In
1568 he served Joachim II., of Brandenburg, in the same capacity, by
whom he was elevated to the rank of Councillor, and richly rewarded.
Afterwards (1571), he was employed by the Elector, August, and his
successor, Christian I., at Dresden. The former not only honored him by
inviting him to be sponsor to his children, but also presented him with
a farm, which, however, never came into the possession of his family,
inasmuch as the subsequent times, during which the Calvinistic
Chancellor, Crell, held the helm of affairs, were not favorable to the
prosperity of the sternly Lutheran Paul Luther. This same Calvinistic
spirit, finally, was the occasion of his retiring into private life in
1590. He moved to Leipzig, where he died in 1593. At the baptism of this
son, Luther said, “I have named him Paul; for St. Paul has taught us
many great and glorious doctrines, and hence I have named my son after
him. God grant that he may have the gifts and grace of the great
Apostle! If it please God, I will send all my sons away from home! If
any one of them has a taste for the military profession, I will send him
to Field-Marshal Löser; if any one wishes to study, him I will send to
Jonas and Philip; if any one is inclined towards labor, him I will send
to a farmer.” But afterwards, when he became better acquainted with
their disposition, he changed his mind. “God forbid,” said he, “that my
sons should ever devote themselves to the study of the law; that would
be my last wish. John will be a theologian; Martin is good for nothing,
and about him I have great fears; Paul must fight against the Turks.”
But history teaches us that his wishes were not gratified. He himself
subsequently advised Paul to study medicine, and the example of John
induced all the educated sons of Luther’s children for several
generations to study law.

The sixth child, Margaret, who entered into a happy matrimonial
alliance, was dangerously attacked with fever after the measles, from
which her brother suffered at the same time. Her father was much alarmed
about her condition, but comforted himself with the thought that she
would be taken out of this present evil world. She married George V.
Kuhlheim, a civil officer in the Prussian service, who was a pious man
and a most ardent admirer of Luther, and especially of his writings, of
which his favorite one was “Luther’s Exposition of the Book of Genesis.”
So profound was his reverence for the Reformer, that the fact was
thought worthy of being mentioned in the sermon preached at his funeral.
His youngest son must have inherited his father’s disposition and
character, for he always esteemed it the highest possible honor to be
“the grandson of the great Luther.”

It is not known to what extent Catharine took part in the education of
her children; but a woman of her mild and amiable temper and strong
decision of character must have contributed much to the proper training
of her offspring. These prominent traits exercised a subduing influence
even on her husband; and Erasmus, who was at this time bitterly opposed
to him, says, “Since Luther’s marriage, he begins to be more mild, and
does not rave so fearfully with his pen as formerly.” Presuming this to
be true, it speaks well for the character of Catharine as a woman and a
wife.

Luther not only employed special teachers for his children, but also
instructed them himself, notwithstanding his numerous other engagements.
He says, “Though I am a Doctor of Divinity, still I have not yet come
out of the school for children, and do not yet rightly understand the
ten commandments, the creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, but study them
daily, and recite the catechism with my little Hans and Magdalena.” For
years he superintended their instruction, diligently watching their
progress, and often giving them tasks to perform. But, above all, he was
solicitous about their religious and moral training, agreeably to his
own sound principle. The father must speak out of the children. The
proper instruction of children is their most direct way to heaven, and
hell is not more easily earned than by neglecting them! They were taught
to pray and to read the Scriptures and other devotional books in the
presence of the family. Particularly during their meals did he address
them in impressive, paternal admonitions. Morning and evening he
assembled his numerous family, house-teachers, guests, and domestics, to
worship. When it is elsewhere said that Luther “daily spent three hours
in private devotion,” it must be restricted to the period of the Diet of
Augsburg, when he was concealed at Coburg.

Luther, during all his life, was a man of prayer. Although he was
opposed to mechanical formality in regard to special times and seasons,
as he had been taught in the church of Rome, yet he maintained a certain
order and regularity in the performance of this Christian duty.
Matthesius, one of his biographers, and a cotemporary, says, “Every
morning and evening, and often during meals, he engaged in prayer.
Besides this, he repeated the smaller catechism and read the Psalter. *
* * In all important undertakings, prayer was the beginning, middle, and
end.”

“I hold,” says Luther, “my prayer to be stronger than Satan himself, and
if that were not the case it would long since have been quite different
with Luther. If I remit prayer a single day, I lose a large portion of
the fire of faith.” His writings contain many sparkling gems on the
subject of prayer.

Fondly as he was attached to his children, yet he never showed a
culpable indifference to their errors, and, least of all, when they were
unruly or displayed anything like ingratitude or deception. On one
occasion when John, at twelve years of age, was guilty of a gross
impropriety, he would not allow him to come into his presence for three
days, and paid no regard to the intercessions of the tender mother and
of his intimate friends, Jonas and Cruciger, but forgave him only after
he had repented of his fault and humbly begged for pardon. He said, “I
would rather have a dead son than a rude and naughty living one. Paul
has not in vain said, ‘A bishop must be one who ruleth well his own
house, having his children in subjection, so that other people may be
edified, witnessing a good example, and not be offended.’ We ministers
are elevated to such a high position in order to set a good example to
others. But our uncivil children give offence to other people. Our boys
wish to take advantage of our position and privileges, and sin openly.
People do not inform me of the faults of mine, but conceal it from me.
The common saying is fulfilled, ‘We do not know the mischief done in our
own families; we only discover it when it has become the town-talk.’
Hence we must chastise them, and not connive at their follies.” Once,
when he saw a youth of fine personal appearance and uncommon abilities,
but of corrupt morals, he exclaimed, “Ah! how much evil an over
indulgence occasions! Children are spoiled by allowing them too much
liberty; hence I shall not overlook the faults of my son John, nor shall
I be as familiar with him hereafter as with his little sister.” But
Luther, though he received from his father a severe training, and was
roughly treated at school, was too well acquainted with human nature not
to know that undue severity in all things created a cowardly, slavish
fear in the minds of some children, and obstinacy and dissimulation in
others. Hence he pursued the golden medium, and tried to accomplish his
purpose by kind and yet earnest admonitions. “I will not chastise Hans
too severely, or he will become shy of me and hate me,” said he. “We
must take care to teach the young, to find pleasure in that which is
good; for that which is forced out of them by stripes will not be
profitable, and, if this is carried to excess, they will only continue
good as long as they feel the lash. But by admonition and judicious
chastisement, they learn to fear God more than the rod. We must often
_stammer_ with children, and in all good things come down to a level
with them, that is, we must be tender, affectionate, and condescending,
and, if that is of no avail, then we may employ severity.”

When he saw his wife or children suffering, his sympathizing heart often
found relief in tears. “I love my Catharine,” he would say, “I love her
more than I do myself. I would rather die myself than she and the
children should die.” It was only when the cause of religion was
concerned that the dearest object on earth was not too dear; for the
honor of religion and truth, he would have sacrificed wife and children.
Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, the magnanimous Reformer, when he
had already become the father of two children, could most cordially say,
in the spirit of Christ’s words, “Let them take my life, property,
reputation, children, and wife—let them all go—the kingdom of God is
still ours.” His heroic hymn, “Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott,”[19]
sufficiently shows his feelings on this subject.

It must be acknowledged that there is nothing remarkably striking in the
history of Catharine de Bora, considered apart from her relation to her
illustrious husband. She was distinguished by no extraordinary talents
or surprising act of heroism after her marriage; she has left no
literary monument to perpetuate her memory, nor any public institution
founded by her munificence. She was nothing more than the “virtuous”
woman so eloquently described by King Solomon in the last chapter of the
Book of Proverbs, but she was that in an eminent degree. A noble dignity
and a temperate self-reliance were the fundamental traits of her
character. Hence, though dependent on others for support, she possessed
sufficient independence of mind to reject several brilliant offers of
marriage, and showed herself worthy of Luther. Her resolution to
exchange the noiseless cloister for a life of honorable and useful
activity in the disturbed world without, displayed not only a noble
courage in the certain anticipation of poverty and persecution, but also
a strong confidence in God. It is more than probable that she read many
of Luther’s writings as soon as they appeared, not actuated by a blind
curiosity, but with a sincere desire to ascertain the truth, and to
derive from them instruction for heart and head. Afterwards, during her
married life, she took every opportunity of correcting and enlarging her
religious views. Although, as the result of the spirit of that age and
of her previous monastic training, she was not profoundly educated, yet
Luther esteemed her as a woman possessing a noble, dignified,
independent spirit, in whose feelings and opinions he found an echo of
his own. Pious, in the proper sense of the word, she found her highest
enjoyment in solitary communion with God, and those hours which she
devoted to the attentive reading of the Scriptures were always the most
happy. To this profitable exercise she was often exhorted by her
husband, and she followed his advice. Said she, “I hear a great deal of
the Scriptures, and read them diligently every day.” In writing to Jonas
on one occasion, Luther says, “She is a diligent reader of the Bible;
she shows deep earnestness in this duty.” She faithfully attended the
public means of grace also, and with her Christian brothers and sisters
worshipped God in the sanctuary. She was devotedly attached to the
doctrines of the Reformation, and one of her dying prayers was for their
preservation in purity to the end of time. She never neglected her
_domestic_ duties. To her husband, in all the relations of his active
life, she was the most affectionate companion; in his sickness, the most
faithful nurse; in his troubles, the most tender comforter: to her
children, she was a most gentle mother; in her household affairs she was
a model to all in regard to cleanliness, order, and neatness; to her
domestics and dependants, a condescending and indulgent mistress. She
was liberal without extravagance, economical without meanness,
hospitable without ostentation. Her questions and opinions, still
preserved in Luther’s writings, show a strong desire for mental
improvement, an enlightened understanding, a clear and dispassionate
penetration. This elevated, intellectual character of Catharine,
connected with her lofty independence and self-confidence, created a
distaste for the company of other less cultivated and less dignified
ladies, for the glory of her husband also encircled her head, and the
house of Luther was the central point of union of the distinguished men
of that day. Hence we need not wonder that, by the envious, she was
accused of pride. It is true, that now, after the lapse of three hundred
years, there may be many more refined and accomplished women than
Catharine was, for she was not distinguished for learning or science;
but none exceed her in that pious, Christian disposition which was so
forcibly expressed in her words and actions. Her lively temperament and
affectionate heart admirably qualified her to feel the warmest sympathy
in the diversified events of her husband’s life, and most kindly to
participate with him in his joys and sorrows. But above all, it was not
less her pious disposition than her persevering faith which identified
her so completely with himself! Whenever the opposition of the enemy
disturbed the quiet of the husband, Catharine never faltered for a
moment, and proceeded to administer consolation to his dejected heart.
During the prevalence of a contagious disease, in 1527, her confidence
in God was not unshaken, so that Luther could in truth write, “Catharine
is yet strong in the faith.” Also, as a widow, when she was subject to
attacks of sickness and adverse circumstances, her equanimity never
entirely failed. She was especially solicitous about her children, and
devoted all the energies of body and mind to their welfare. It cannot be
denied that Catharine partook of the common lot of mortals; she had her
faults and infirmities; but they are all overshadowed by those numerous
exalted virtues which are not always found united in one person of her
sex. She was a pattern of every domestic and Christian virtue; of
righteousness and good works to her generation, and may the daughters
and wives of the present day imitate her example, and profit by the
practical lessons which her life has taught!

If she could make no pretensions to personal beauty, still she possessed
not a little that was attractive. She was of medium size, had an oval
face, a bright, sparkling eye, an expansive, serene forehead, a nose
rather small, lips a little protruding, and cheek-bones somewhat
prominent. Erasmus speaks of her as a woman of magnificent form and
extraordinary beauty; but Seckendorf says this is an extravagant picture
of her. The later opponents of Luther agree with Erasmus in representing
her as very beautiful, and falsely charge the Reformer as being
attracted only by her personal charms. Maimbourg says, “Among the nuns,
there was one named Catharine von Bora, whom Luther found to be very
beautiful, and whom, on that account, he loved.” Varillas and Bossuet
report, “That he married a nun of high rank and uncommon beauty.”
Chardon de la Rochette relates the following fact: “I have found the
likeness of Luther and his wife in a lumber-room in Orleans, where they
are in great danger of going to ruin. I will bet that there is no man
who would not wish to have so beautiful a wife as Catharine von Bora. It
is the first time that I have seen her picture, and it justifies the
opinion which Bossuet has expressed of her appearance. She has a noble,
expressive, and animated face.” But Luther himself says of her, “A wife
is sufficiently adorned and beautiful when she pleases her husband, whom
she ought to please.”

Her likeness was frequently painted, and at various periods of her life,
by the distinguished artists of that age, such as Cranach, senior,
Cranach, junior, and Hans Holbein, junior. Cranach, senior, painted her
likeness in oil colors _sixteen times_, and the other artists mentioned,
several times each. Many of these original portraits are still to be
seen in the various picture galleries of Europe. There are extant more
than _forty_ different copper-plate and wood-engravings of her likeness.
It has also been transferred to porcelain-ware and other articles of
domestic use. A number of medals containing her likeness have been
struck to commemorate her virtues, and plaster casts of the bust of full
life size have also been made. All this shows the high esteem in which
she has ever been held by those who can appreciate exalted virtue and
genuine Christian character.

As a proof of her artistic skill and her proficiency in ornamental
needle-work, even in that distant age, there is, to this day, exhibited
in the vestry-room of the cathedral at Merseburg, a blue satin surplice
which she embroidered for her husband, and which he wore on the occasion
of some great solemnity, and in the former University library at
Wittenberg, they still show a likeness of Luther, neatly and elegantly
worked in silk by Catharine. But these works will perish, whilst the
results of her faith, hope, and charity, will endure forever.

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