THE FOREIGN LADY, calling at the newspaper office in 1856 and finding that the editor was not in, was directed to his house. Making the half-hour trek up the hill, Ottilia Assing was tired, but her expectations were restored as she reached the house, with its lovely garden and fine view over the city. She was more excited still when she was greeted by the man she had come so far to meet. He was, she discovered, a "rather light mulatto of unusually large, slender and powerful build." The curiosity of the visitor from Berlin was great, and his appearance answered a good many of her questions: "His features are marked by a distinctly vaulted forehead and with a singularly deep indentation at the base of the nose. The nose itself is arched, the lips are small and nicely formed, revealing more the influence of the white than of his black origins. His thick hair is mixed here and there with grey and is curly though not woolly." If she had felt the need to establish that his features were not markedly Negroid, this keen observer had an even stronger urge to take in the whole of the man she met.
As the two began to be acquainted, Assing found that Frederick Douglass had a "talent" for "conversation through which he stimulates and elevates and shows himself to be both learned and ingenious and highly cultivated." The handsome German woman, speaking careful, correct English, was as intriguing to Douglass as he to her. They began a friendship that day which was to last for a quarter of a century.
Ottilia Assing was born in Hamburg, the daughter of Rosa Maria Varnhagen Assing and David Assing, a surgeon who had converted from Judaism to Lutheranism. After her mother's death in 1840 and her father's