Letter 136.3

136.3. Wilhelm von Humboldt to Wilhelm Schlegel in Amsterdam: Burg Oerner, 16 November 1793 [*]

Burg Oerner, 16 November 1793

Your second letter, my dear Schlegel, greatly gladdened me, and I can respond with a heart that is all the lighter insofar as the immediate occasion with which your letter concerns itself, albeit without any merit on my own part, has taken such a fortunate turn. [1] Your lady friend is enjoying her freedom again and is doing so in a fashion that is at once also the most honorable for her. I wish I, too, could have contributed to her securing it, but initially there was absolutely nothing that could be done at the court in Mainz, and the path her brother took, though indeed successful in the end (since all the prisoners depended solely on the prince elector), seemed so unpromising that one could not really risk it without a precise understanding of local circumstances. [2]

I have never had the good fortune to meet Madam Böhmer herself even though considering everything I have heard about her through you, Madam Forster, and others, I certainly would have wished to do so. That said, however, the three letters I did receive from her in connection with this matter can to a certain extent serve in the stead of personal acquaintance. It is precisely her lofty spirit and intellect, which you yourself so handsomely portray, that comes to expression in such extremely characteristic fashion, particularly in the first letter, even though she herself had been made somewhat uncertain and perhaps even mistrustful by the cold tone of my own response, which in its own turn was prompted by the uncertain fate of any letter sent to any fortress, certainly none of which, however, prevented me from sincerely working on her behalf. [3] . . .


[*] Source: Anton Klette, Verzeichniss der von A.W. Schlegel nachgelassenen Briefsammlung, nebst Mittheilung ausgewählter Proben des Briefwechsels mit den Gebrüdern von Humboldt, F. Schleiermacher, B.G. Niebuhr, und J. Grimm (Bonn 1868), iv. Back.

[1] Concerning Humboldt’s involvement in attempts to secure Caroline’s release earlier, see Caroline to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter on 27 April 1793 (letter 123) and von Humboldt’s own letter to Wilhelm on 25 May 1793 (letter 127a). Back.

[2] Concerning Philipp Michaelis’s actions in securing Caroline’s release, cf. Luise Wiedemann’s account in her Erinnerungen, pp. 81–82. Back.

[3] Concerning Caroline’s reaction to Humboldt’s rather frosty tone, cf. her letter to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter on 16 May 1793 (letter 127). Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott