I stumbled across this fascinating article today written by Miranda Argyle. It was published in ‘Raw Vision’ magazine in the winter 2014/15 edition. It focuses on the extraordinary love letters that Emma Hauck wrote to her husband from the University Psychiatric Clinic in Heidelberg just over a century ago. I decided to blog about this as it relates to the Neuroscience project I am doing at the moment. I have started looking into mental illnesses and found this very appropriate.
The collection of letters have been collected by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist working in Heidelberg. He continued to build on the collection of artistic productions of the mentally ill originally started by Emil Kraeplin. Although originally intended to be a tool for diagnosis and categorisation, Prinzhorn, who had a background in art history, believed that the images came from the primeval need for expression and were not solely the symptoms of insanity as previously thought.
On February 7th of 1909, a 30-year-old mother of two by the name of Emma Hauck was admitted to the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, having recently been diagnosed with dementia praecox (schizophrenia). The outlook improved briefly and a month later she was discharged, only to be readmitted within weeks as her condition deteriorated further. Sadly, the downturn continued and in August of that year, with her illness deemed “terminal” and rehabilitation no longer an option, Emma was transferred to Wiesloch asylum, the facility in which she would pass away eleven years later.
It was around this time that a heartbreaking collection of letters, some of which can be seen below, were discovered in the archives of the Heidelberg hospital; all written obsessively in Emma’s hand during her second stay at the clinic in 1909, at a time when reports indicate she was relentlessly speaking of her family. Each desperate letter is directed at her absent husband, Mark, and every page is thick with overlapping text. Some are so condensed as to be illegible; some read “Herzensschatzi komm” (“Sweetheart come”) over and over; others simply repeat the plea, “komm komm komm,” (“come come come”) thousands of times.
None were sent.