Letter 1

• 1. Caroline to Luise Stieler in Gotha: Göttingen, 4 September 1778 [*]

Göttingen, 4 September 1778

|3| . . . My birthday was this week, [1] and it gave me pause for some rather sad reflections; how utterly different everything was this time last year, I can still remember every detail. On that very day, Blumenbach [2] had to go out to the countryside, so that morning he wrote a billet to my brother asking him to congratulate me and at the same time to assure me he would drink to my health that very afternoon and would do so doubtless with an extremely warm heart, and to me he sent a bouquet with the following verses: [3]

This small bouquet I bind for you,
Plucked from my heart, where once it grew,
Do take, Belinda, for you see,
This small bouquet, it comes from me.

The evening he returned, he still managed to come by in person. But how all that has now changed! This year he did not even think about it, nor have I seen him for three weeks now. . . . I again am about to lose one of my girlfriends here, who will be married in Jena, Mlle. Röderer; she is marrying Professor Loder, a pleasant man who has only been in Jena since Easter and who was a student here; I hope the marriage will be a happy one. [4] . . . she was living with her sister, who does, however, have a rather obstinate husband, namely, Herr Schlözer, [5] whom you presumably already know par renommée [6] . . .

Notes

[*] Erich Schmidt (1913) preferred to “leave in abeyance the question of the origin of Caroline’s lifelong friendship with Luise Johannette Wilhelmine Stieler, daughter of Gotha Hofrath Stieler and later wife of Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, a friendship Schelling so eloquently acknowledged after Caroline’s death,” though Schmidt did rightly surmise that Caroline attended boarding school in Gotha for a time. She did so for two years, living there with the family of Julius Karl Schläger (Caroline will mention his wife, “Mother Schläger,” often in her early letters). Max Berbig, “Caroline v. Schelling und Therese Huber in ihren Beziehungen zu Gotha,” Mitteilungen des Vereins für Gothaische Geschichte und Altertumsforschung (1925), 11–25, here 12, maintains that Caroline moved to Gotha and entered this school at Easter 1774. Both of Caroline’s sisters, Lotte and Luise Michaelis, similarly attended school there, though Lotte under rather different circumstances (see notes to letters 21, 25a ). Back.

[1] 2 September fell on a Wednesday in 1778; Caroline is here writing on that Friday. Back.

[2] Gotha was also the hometown of the long-lived anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who became a professor in Göttingen in 1776; he eventually married Christian Gottlob Heyne’s sister-in-law. In a letter to Wilhelm Schlegel from Hannover on 4 September 1791 (Körner [1930] 1:17), Caroline Rehberg, describing the company she kept in the resort spa Pyrmont during a visit that summer, remarks that “Blumenbach’s company contributed considerably to the joy; always cheerful and yet at the same time something so dependable about him, that is doubly valuable in a place where all around one love and friendship seem to be the most moody and unstable of deities.” Back.

[3] “This small bouquet . . . ” was Goethe’s dedicatory poem to Lili Schönemann (which also passed into the pirated Himburg edition of his works) prefacing the singspiel Erwin und Elmire. Ein Schauspiel mit Gesang (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1775). Back.

[4] Wilhelmine Dorothea Victoria, née Röderer married the anatomist and university physician Justus Christian Loder in 1778; Loder and his (from 1792) second wife, Louise Loder, will play a considerable if varying role in Caroline’s letters from Jena. Back.

[5] The historian and politician August Ludwig von Schlözer had a long and respectful relationship with Caroline’s father, whose lectures he attended as a student in Göttingen; he had married Caroline Röderer in November 1769. Back.

[6] Fr., “by [his] reputation.” Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott