Carl Friedrich Gauss Letter (1844)

Translation of a letter from Carl Friedrich Gauss to his son Eugene in St. Charles, Missouri.


My dear Son:

The announcement contained in your two letters to myself and Theresa of the marriage upon which you have resolved and which is to take place soon, I have received with pleasure in several respects. Under the impossibility to form an opinion in regard to conditions and persons from my own knowledge, I willingly submit to the confidence that your age and your experience will protect you against such disappointment as indeed thoughtless and inexperienced youths fall prey to. I therefore wish and hope sincerely that all the beautiful virtues which you praise in your future life companion and which well balance the absence of material endowments for a sensible man who feels that he stands firmly on his own feet, - will always prove themselves genuine, but also that you will always prove yourself worthy of the possession of such a treasure and that in this way the union will result in the true happiness of both of you.

Your two brothers have also chosen life companions without fortunes. That you overlook this lack of fortune with so much equanimity is pleasant to me also, in so far as I therein presuppose a confirmation of what Mr. Eggers stated here a few months ago, that is, - that your circumstances and business are in a prospering condition. Mr. Eggers' visit was so short that in regard to much that I should like to know I have received only very incomplete information or none at all. Thus I know, especially of your business, only in a general way that it is of commercial character and that you are associated with a partner; but I have not learned for example of what kind that business is, - whether your partner is a German or an American, etc.

In one of your former letters you mentioned at one time a young Frenchman by the name of Nicollet, whose acquaintance you had made. He was some time ago an assistant in the Paris Observatory and has furnished several works which are not without merit. Why he had to leave France I have not learned. Later (perhaps seven or eight years ago) he furnished (I do not know whether anonymously or over his own name) in an American newspaper of journal a clownish article about truly absurd discoveries which he alleged Herschell had made at the Cape of Good Hope. This article at that time was even translated into German and furnished a remarkable proof of how very coarse a mystification may be without losing the power to fool many people. This Nicollet is said to have died in America a short time ago. I should like very much to learn something more in regard to his course there. Also another astronomer, a native of Switzerland who had made his home in America for nearly fifty years and with whom I kept up some correspondence from time to time, namely, Rudolph Hassler, chief of the North American (United States) Coast Survey, died a short time ago, as I learned from the newspapers.

With the sincerest wishes for the enduring happiness of your union, Your affectionate father, C. F. Gauss

Goettingen, February 15, 1844.


P. S. Letters via Liverpool travel neither more securely nor more quickly than via Havre, but always cost an enormous postage here, about three times as much as via Havre. Therefore in future send no letters via England, but always via Havre.

Notes from translated copy:Edit

Eugene Gauss and Henrietta Fawcett were married February 14, 1844, in St. Charles, Missouri