Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Einstein's divorce letters

Difficulty: 0

I've got marriage certificates, I've got divorce proceedings from court and I've got lots of letters

To his ex-wife his new wife and to his children.

Hello, I'm Toby, and thank you for joining me for another video about the personal life of Albert Einstein.

So let's have a look at these.

Einstein married his first wife Mileva in January 1903

after they had been together for around five years. The relationship was in its prime and so was the academic productivity.

It was in

1905 that Einstein would publish his four major papers that would change the face of physics.

By 1912 however

Einstein had started having an affair with his cousin Elsa

Mileva knew about this and it put a huge strain on their relationship.

By 1914

this is a letter written from Einstein to Mileva

detailing some conditions of them continuing to live together.

Einstein was demanding that these conditions were to be met

otherwise they would have to get divorced. And it seems like they were even trying to stay together at all just for the sake of

the children

Einstein says that you make sure, one, that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order and repair

Two, that I receive my three meals regularly in my room

And three, that my bedroom and office are always kept neat, in particular, that the desk is available to me alone

You renounce all personal relations with me as far as maintaining them is not absolutely required

for social reasons. You are neither to expect intimacy from me nor to reproach me in any way

You must desist immediately from addressing me if I request it

And you must leave my bedroom or office immediately without protest if I so request.

Finally, you commit yourself not to disparage me either in word or in deed in front of my children.

He ends with a bit of a final sting, which is to say read this slowly. It will do you good.

Read it also to your family. They have nothing else to do.

At this point clearly they are not on great terms and are just trying to

live together practically.

Now Mileva did actually accept these conditions

But, maybe not surprisingly, things didn't last very long.

In this next letter to Einstein's cousin Elsa

He says the last battle has been fought yesterday my wife left for good with the children

I was at the railway station and gave them a last kiss

I cried yesterday, bawled like a little boy yesterday afternoon and yesterday evening after they had gone.

He says that Mileva perceives his conduct as a crime against her and the children

You, dear little Else,

will now become my wife and become convinced that it is not at all so hard to live by my side

He also warns Elsa to not go out alone

so that she does not become the subject of idol gossip

You will have to perform wonders of tact and restraint so that you are not looked upon as a kind of murderess.

Now, this is in 1914

and Einstein and Mileva have now separated and are living apart, but they are still married.

We saw in that last letter that Einstein was very upset to see his children moving away from him

And he feared that their opinion of him would be tainted. Here is a letter from 1915

Addressed to his oldest son, Hans Albert.

He's excited for them to go on a trip together, perhaps hiking to Italy

I'll also tell you many fine and interesting things about science and much else

I am very glad that you are enjoying geometry.

It was my favorite pastime when I was already a bit older than you, around 12 years old.

But I had no one to demonstrate anything to me. I had to learn it from books

I would immensely enjoy being able to teach it to you now, but that's not possible.

If you write me each time what you already know, I'll give you a nice little problem to solve.

I found that to be quite a nice letter from Einstein to his son. It's an insight that showed he cared about his development

And he wanted to make sure that his children still looked up to their dad in a positive way

Einstein's youngest son, Eduard, was diagnosed with

schizophrenia at the age of 20 and spent much of his life institutionalized,

having a very poor relationship with his father. So things weren't always so positive.

Fast forward another year to 1916

And we have Einstein saying to Mileva that he proposes to turn their tested separation into a divorce.

Einstein was certainly concerned that the fact he was still technically married to Mileva

was impacting the public perception of Elsa and causing her stress.

People were looking upon her unfavorably

And that's one of Einstein's motivations to rush this divorce along.

However, thought of a divorce was really tough on Mileva.

She was the one who was resisting it

And it caused her a great deal of pain and stress.

Perhaps related or perhaps not, but soon after this letter

Mileva fell into very ill health.

She was suffering from a heart condition and chronic fevers. In this letter to Einstein's good friend

Michele Besso from September that year, he thanks Michele for the report on Mileva's condition

And says from now on I'll not trouble her anymore with the divorce.

So for a couple of years Mileva's health put a pause on the divorce proceedings.

But she did eventually start to get better and in this letter to her written in 1918

Einstein says that the endeavour finally to put my private affairs in some state of order

Prompts me to suggest the divorce to you for the second time.

He's becoming a little bit desperate for this to be finalized

And goes ahead to propose some support for Mileva in the event of their divorce.

He offers 9 000 german marks

Which I believe would be around 25 000 American dollars today.

Some of that will be deposited annually for the benefit of the children

He also offers her his Nobel Prize or that would be the monetary prize that comes along with it.

Now this is quite interesting because this letter was written in 1918

and that is a full three years before Einstein was even awarded the Nobel Prize

Naturally, I would make such huge sacrifices

only in the case of a voluntary divorce. If you do not consent to the divorce

From now on not a cent above 6 000 marks will be sent.

He is urging her to file the divorce claim against him

so that she remains the innocent party. Eventually the divorce does go ahead.

Here I have the document from December 1918

Which is the court records of the divorce proceedings

We have here that Einstein was cautioned to speak the truth. He claims it is correct that I committed adultery

I have been living together with my cousin, the widow Elsa Einstein,

that is her maiden name, for about four and a half years and have been continuing these intimate relations since then.

My wife has known since the summer of 1914

that these relations exist between me and my cousin and she has made her displeasure known to me.

So there we have in this

transcribed and translated copy of the original document

Einstein admitting what he's done and acknowledging the reason for their divorce.

Now, it's certainly true that all these personal documents from Einstein's life would never be

scrutinized like this or uploaded to the Princeton archives for historians to look at if it weren't for the fact that

Einstein has been so idolized to the point where he's kind of been

elevated to the level of some kind of saint.

People are really interested in the messy lives of famous people. And it is his great success

in physics that has meant that things as random as his divorce proceedings

are out there for the public to read and look at. Perhaps looking at these documents will encourage you to

idolize ideas more than you idolize individual people.

One final note at the end of this document was that it is marked "Urgent!"

Maybe that's because Einstein was ready to get moving on with his second marriage and I have that second marriage certificate

right here.

June 1919

The marriage between Albert Einstein and his cousin Elsa

Now, these two did go on to stay married until Elsa's death in 1936

and they didn't have any children together

I've certainly found it quite insightful to read through a lot of these letters and if you'd like to do so yourself

All of the links to the originals will be down in the description.

A big thank you to the viewers who support me on Patreon

It is your support that makes these videos possible.

And a special shout out to today's patron cat of the day


Thanks for watching and I'll see you next time :)

The Description of Einstein's divorce letters