Charlotta Frölich was one of the most productive female authors of the 1700s.
Charlotta Frölich’s father, Carl Gustaf, was a military man who won the king’s good will by successfully defending Bohus fortress in 1678. After that, he was appointed as county governor in the mid-Swedish county of Gävle. Charlotta Frölich was born there in 1698 “at the old Gefle Castle” as she wrote in her account of her life. Her father came to be known as an accomplished administrator, very involved in the welfare of the people. He was appointed as governor general in Riga in 1702, and he took his family there with him. Charlotta Frölich spent the first years of her childhood there.
Like most women in older times, Charlotta Frölich is relatively invisible in genealogical history, despite coming from a noble family. Information about her life is mostly accessible through descriptions of her father and her husband, Johan Funck. On her mother’s side, Charlotta Frölich came from the Cronström family. Her maternal grandfather was the enterprising mining engineer, works owner and councillor Isak Cronström, who was knighted for his services. Her mother Beata Christina Cronström was Carl Gustaf Frölich’s second wife. With her he had three children, of whom Charlotta Frölich was the youngest. Charlotta Frölich also had seven half-siblings through her father’s previous marriage.
Charlotta Frölich produced a good deal of literature during the years 1741—1770. Her works show that she was an energetic author who well understood the use of the tools of classical rhetoric, even if her spelling sometimes bears witness to the fact that the orthography of the Swedish language was not yet established, but often decided rather by phonetics. From her autobiography it emerges that she received tuition in history among other subjects, as well as in arithmetic, reading and writing. She probably did not receive any advanced training in eloquence and classical rhetoric, although these were included in the Latin studies that were reserved almost exclusively for boys. Considering that her family had Austrian roots and that they were resident in Riga for a time, it may well be that German was spoken in their home.
Charlotta Frölich’s children never reached adulthood. During the years 1736—1743, four children were born who all died within their first year. At the end of her autobiography, Charlotta Frölich states briefly: “God with them so gently steered / that they died but tender-yeared”. She was 38 years of age when she had her first child, and 45 when the last child died at the age of one.
Charlotta Frölich’s literary production can be said to have fitted into three spheres: firstly, contributions to the general good, or Sweden’s economy; secondly, poems that were socially motivated; and thirdly, writings of a religious nature. It was obvious that some of what she wrote was aimed at a broader group of readers in order to be useful. One history book was said to be written for “the common man” and a devotional book was aimed at women readers. Her autobiography bears witness to the great interest in the 1700s for historical narratives and biographical documentation. It does not contain any self-reflection, although Charlotta Frölich highlights certain characteristics and virtues in herself and her family, such as piety, generosity to the poor, loyalty to friends, capability and lack of vanity in their daily tasks. Her autobiography also shows how virtues and high ideals were linked to patriotic strivings. The essays in the collections of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences point in the same direction: Charlotta Frölich’s contributions were aimed at increasing the possibilities for productive agriculture in Northern Sweden. In addition, there is a light-hearted pedagogical poem in which she writes about her own experiences of beekeeping. In her political poem about beggar children, she pleads convincingly for the children’s being taken in hand, since they constitute a future resource in the form of working power. Taken together, her projects as an author can be seen as part of the patriotic and utilitarian strivings of the 1700s, or even as part of the enlightenment, seen in a wider context.
In her family there was a streak of devout religiosity that expressed itself in various ways. Charlotta Frölich’s paternal aunt Eva Margaretha Frölich made herself known for her ecstatic religious visions that she communicated in writing. She was therefore accused of spreading heresies and she died eventually in prison. Charlotta Frölich’s brother David was one of the Swedish officers who came to import radical pietistic ideas after his imprisonment in Russia. One half-brother came to spend his time on pietistic activities with such fervour that he was called in front of the Cathedral Chapter in Lund in 1734. There is also a description of how Charlotta Frölich’s father came to sink more and more into religious broodings with increasing age.
Charlotta Frölich does not show any trace of this type of religiosity. Her authorship is instead characterised in many ways by an orthodox Lutheran devoutness and she carefully avoids mentioning the religious extremes of her family in her account of her life. It might otherwise be thought that the autobiography is partly a defence against the criticism that might have been aimed at her family on account of certain family members’ actions. Her book of devotions, like her occasional poems, are marked by strict Lutheran beliefs. In the foreword, she writes that the book had not been written for scholarly men and it did not contain learned expositions on the Bible. “But for my own sex have I written simply”. The work has its weaknesses, states the author, but the intention with it is good. Even learned men may probably be able to find one or more wise thought in what she has written. The book of devotion bears witness to great familiarity with the Bible and every chapter in the book consists of a shorter poem dealing with a particular point in the Bible. Interestingly enough, it also contains a conspicuous element emphasising women’s significance in the process of redemption, for example when it states that it was women who shouldered the responsibility for anointing the body of Jesus, when the disciples failed to do so: “Women all of faithful heart / Came sadly forth from every part / Oiling Jesus’ limbs as bidden / For his disciples had just hidden”.
Despite the fact that Charlotta Frölich belonged to the social élite, by being born a countess in a noble family, who also came to marry a baron, she was not included in any fashionable noble circles. In these circles, the literary consumption of books mainly took place in French. Theatre was included in cultural life, and correspondence, conversation and social life were characterised by elegant socialising. Charlotta Frölich’s life had a completely different orientation and her autobiography provides a clear illustration of this:
[Ö]fwerflöd och Kräslig lefnad
hade i vårt hüs ey trefnad
ey i bruk tå kommit än
The och Cafe dyra Winer
smaken war tå ey så finer
fägnad blef dock mången wän
altid måst iag något giöra
om hushållning talas höra
dagligt sälskap nog thär war
dock alt flycktigt undan wijktes
med visiter intet fijktes.
All excess and plenteous life
In our house met naught but strife
Therefore use we not these blends
Tea and Coffee, wines so dear
Tastes not pleasing as I fear
Yet they catch both foe and friends
Always must I make ado
Housekeeping must be heard too
Daily company best if few
But we cast all false away
With visits naught we hurry may.
Charlotta Frölich’s occasional poems bear witness to her social position as married to a county governor. In these poems, she turns mostly to socially high-ranking persons in Uppsala, where she lived for the last years of her life. It may be said that with her authorship, she shouldered an important part of the responsibility for the social contacts and duties of the county governor’s household. In this way she resembled the majority of female authors who made their debuts in print during the Swedish Age of Liberty, when the majority of them were occasional poets who wrote for social reasons.
Charlotta Frölich eventually married relatively late in life and in her autobiography it is clear that for a long time she had resisted certain attempts at persuasion. Instead, she concentrated on taking care of the agricultural estates that she had taken over from her mother. Her mother also made over an iron foundry to her with blast furnace for the production of pig-iron, and in 1734 she acquired the rights from the the mining authority of the time (Bergskollegium) for the running of the blast furnace. Knowledge about mining existed even on the female side of the family; their maternal grandfather Isaac Cronström had made a fortune in mining, and after his death, his widow took care of the running of the mines. After her marriage to Johan Funck in 1735, it was consequently Charlotta Frölich who took charge of the couple’s shared estates. The contributions she handed in to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ collections in 1741—1742 bear witness to her own experiences of running farms. In her essays, she discusses grazing grounds, sowing corn in the northernmost Swedish province of Norrland and the use of the then new-fangled sowing machine.
When it comes to productivity, she held second place among contemporaries, after her considerably better-known colleague Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht, but she does not appear in any manuals on the history of literature. The main reason is that she belongs to the type of author who was scrapped from the literary canon during the romantic period, since her production was mainly occasional literature, that is to say such literature that was written to enhance the splendour at important events in the social life of the time in the upper classes, for example funerals, weddings, doctoral inaugurations or similar. Charlotta Frölich also wrote a political poem about beggary, a pedagogical poem about beekeeping, a history book for “the common man” and a devotional book. She was the first woman ever to be published in the collections of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences: Kongl. Svenska Vetenskaps-Academiens Handlingar.
Some handwritten literature by Charlotta Fröhlich has also been preserved: a volume of poems that has also been supplemented with her versified autobiography. According to information on the flyleaf, the volume was handed by the author to the Uppsala librarian Berge Frondin on his injunction. Most of what she wrote can hardly be said to belong to what is regarded today as good literature. On the other hand, her works give insight into the social, political and religious life of her time, being examples of opportunities for women’s authorisation in public contexts.
Charlotta Frölich died in 1770 at Uppsala Castle, at 72 years of age. In one of the funeral poems written at her death, written in so-called lapidary style, she is described as follows:
With. One. Raised. Eye.
Contemplated. She. The. World.
Sang. The. Creator’s. Glory.