Mathilde Schönberg’s letters – after dénouement

Letters written by Mathilde to Schönberg immediately after her elopement with Gerstl in August 1908

As many of the group drifted away during July and August, there is little to suggest that Gerstl’s joint vacation with the Schönbergs was about to descend into drama. The denouement, therefore, appears to have arrived unexpectedly on 26 August after Mathilde and Gerstl had been found in flagrante delicto, possibly in Gerstl’s farmhouse. Certainly, although there is a suggestion that he may have had Gerstl and Mathilde watched by Irene Bien, Schönberg’s shock at discovering his wife’s infidelity strongly suggests that he had few, if any, suspicions beforehand. Mathilde’s exhortations to her husband appear to have fallen on deaf ears and she chose to flee Gmunden with Gerstl. Too late to catch the last train to Vienna, the two spent the night together at a hotel in the main town, the Gasthof zur Stadt Frankfurt. Her contrition and regret was such that she apparently wrote an immediate note to Arnold, which she posted by express mail the next day from Vienna, as well as perhaps another that she had delivered by hand

The day following their discovery, the 27th, the lovers finally travelled to Vienna, arriving at Westbahnhof in the evening and stopping at Mathilde’s flat on their way to a pension in Nußdorf, where they would spend the following three nights. On her brief visit to her apartment, Mathilde began a long, rambling script, which, either on account of the lateness of the hour or the need to catch the last tram to Nußdorf, she only finished once she reached her destination. The next day, she evidently had the letter delivered by hand, possibly by the pension’s landlady, to Liechtensteinstraße 68/70. A further letter followed the receipt of a reply from her husband, probably sent to her poste restante, which she had opened at the post office at Lazarettengasse 6 in the ninth district. Despite her indiscretions, Schönberg clearly wanted her back, and, with the possible help of police investigations, soon discovered her address at the pension and, by August 30th, Mathilde had returned. Four pieces of correspondences can be ascribed to the few days between Mathilde’s flight and her return to Arnold and these, together with their transcriptions and translations, can be accessed via the following links, which open in a separate window:

1. Mathilde to Schönberg – [27] August 1908/1

2. Mathilde to Schönberg – [27] August 1908/2

3. Mathilde to Schönberg – 27/28 August 1908

4. Mathilde to Schönberg – 28/29 August 1908

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Click to return one of the four periods of correspondence:
June 1907 ♦ ♦ June 1908 ♦ ♦ August 1908 ♦ ♦ November 1908

One thought on “Mathilde Schönberg’s letters – after dénouement

  1. Dear Dr. Coffer,

    We have discovered your website on Richard Gerstl via the Austrian Cultural Council event in London on the 14th November.
    I am an Australia painter and I am very interested in the music and of course the paintings and painters of the fin-de-siecle period.
    I am also very much interested in the psyche, the ethos and the values of that time and your exploration of the subject and the period is very impressive and valuable for me.

    Kind regards
    John Holwey

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