August had six children with his three wives. One died after just two days. August describes the time spent with his other five children, Karin, Greta, Hans (also called Putte), Kerstin and Anne-Marie, in a rich and lively manner in his many letters. “I must have children because I can’t work without the sound of children’s voices”, he writes. He does not see children as interfering with his writing. On the contrary, he sees them as life-giving and indispensible. (Having said that, one has to remember that August was mostly separated from his children and only had them on temporary visits.) However, when he saw them he was fully devoted to them. This is particularly true in the case of his youngest child, his favourite daughter, Anne-Marie, whom he had with Harriet Bosse. The brief, tender notes and messages that appear on the walls of “The Nursery” bear testimony to how much he misses his child when he is separated from her.
He doesn’t really show the same unconditional love towards his other children. It is true that he pays attention to them, gives them newspapers with “funny figures to draw on”, he lets them “photograph with the big apparatus” and he asks the blacksmith to put together the steam engine for Putte. But when they approach adolescence, he changes his tone. To the fourteen-year-old Karin (or perhaps rather to her mother Siri) he writes guilt-inducing letters when he thinks that she and her siblings demand too much money from him: “I have starved for you, I have sold books, sold eve- rything I could sell, in order, for as long as possible, to send you presents on your birthdays, but then everything came to an end.” And Kerstin, his daughter with Frida Uhl, whom he rarely saw, and who repeatedly tried to contact him, he brushes off with: “Fare well! And regard me as a memory.”