Letter 166

• 166. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena 17–20 July 1796

[Jena] 17[–20] July [17]96

|390| . . . This morning I was still in bed when I received a lengthy billet from Schüz inviting us to go for a carriage ride, but I declined.

18 July

|391| And it was a good thing I did, since otherwise I would have missed Goethe’s visit. Yesterday afternoon, when I was alone, the Herr Geheimrath was announced. He has gotten so heavy in the past 3 years that I would not even have recognized him had he not been announced by name. [1] He was quite cordial, was glad to see me in such pleasant circumstances, said a great many nice things about Schlegel before Schlegel himself arrived. He threatened to call on us often whenever he was on his way to Paradise. [2] We went to the Schillers’ afterward, and then that evening to the big club here; he was at both places. He will not be staying long this time; he was just bringing the ending of Wilhlem Meister over to speak with Schiller about it. [3]

I have often encountered Frau von Kalb at Madam Schiller’s, who continues to do well. The former told me with a graceful turn of phrase that I ought to visit her one of these mornings. I took this to be an order and dutifully went. Listen — she is, after all, nobility, et même très fort, [4] as charming as she may well be. As far as I could see through the layer of nobility, she does genuinely seem to have a good mind. But might there perhaps not be more than one Frau von Kalb? This one cannot possibly be the one who dissolved into tears at the performance of Esther. [5] She informed me with an equally casual air that I ought to visit her in Weimar.

20 July

This is turning into a proper diary. I was wretchedly sick yesterday, which is why I never finished the letter. It was so hot on Sunday that I spent half the day in but a single light dress and without stockings, and caught a cold and ended up with a swollen throat — and a fever, and thus |392| have to stay home this evening instead of attending a social gathering at Woltmann’s, which Goethe is also attending unless he did not already ride off yesterday evening [6] . . .

At the big club I saw the Loders, Rath Hufeland and his wife, etc. Everyone was quite charming. Bötticher from Weimar visited us yesterday. You can imagine what sweet discourse that prompted. [7] Niethammer has also already visited me . . .

Have the Wiebekings already left? Darmstadt is quite frankly no longer secure — people are trembling even here. [8] Stay well, very well, dear.

Notes

[1] Concerning Goethe’s visit to Mainz three years earlier, cf. cf. Wilhelm Schlegel’s letter to Schiller on 28 June 1796 (letter 163i) with note 6. Back.

[2] The Paradise greenspace (Das Paradies below left in this 1884 map [© Städtische Museen Jena, Graphische Sammlung]) was and is located along the Saale River in Jena; Caroline and Wilhelm’s first residence in Jena, a modest garden house, seems to have been located approximately at the center of the picture, since, as Caroline will imply, their house lay along the way between Goethe’s quarters in the castle (the black Schloss complex, at the center right in the picture) and the Paradise area:

Jena Paradise map

Back.

[3] The final volume (books 7 and 8) of Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister would be appearing in October 1796. Goethe does indeed note in his diary that he spent not only the evening of 18 July 1796 with Schiller in Jena, but also part of the afternoon the previous day (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:45). He mentions, moreover, commencing with the copying of book 8 on 20 July 1796 (ibid., 3:2:45). Back.

[4] Fr., “and emphatically so.” Back.

[5] Concerning the play Esther, cf. Caroline to Georg Joachim Göschen on 9 August 1795 (letter 152d) with note 3 and the cross references there.

Concerning the incident itself, Caroline does not quite describe the situation adequately for readers not already acquainted with what transpired. Charlotte von Kalb did not, as implied by Caroline’s brief statement, “dissolve into tears” from being touched by Gotter’s play. Quite the contrary, as the following excerpt from Gotter’s biography makes clear. According to his biographer Rudolf Schlösser, Gotter became alienated from both the literature and public life of his age during the final years of his life (Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter 149). Schlösser describes one such occasion (ibid., 151), citing in part from Friedrich von Schlichtegroll’s introductory biography in Gotter’s Literarischer Nachlass (Gotha 1802), lxi–lxii:

“He usually lived in a garden house during the summer, using the days with the best weather for modest foot journeys to nearby areas with comely landscapes. Even in later years, he occasionally spent several days in Weimar, days transformed into salutary and pleasant relaxation by the conviviality and company of Duchess Anna Amalia, whose goodwill he had long enjoyed, and by the company of the companions there who had followed his renowned career, and by other friends.” Gotter undertook one such visit, for example, in October 1789 in order to read his Vasthi and Esther aloud to the duchess [see Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer on 24 October 1789 (letter 92): “Gotter wants me to tell you that he was recently in Weimar and that the duchess and Einsiedel inquired a good deal about you, indeed deigning to express themselves quite graciously concerning you. Gotter evoked a proud Vastha (Vasthi) and a humble Esther, which he read aloud there”]. Both Einsiedel and Frau von Kalb seem to have attended this reading, the latter of whom “dissolved into tears” out of sheer laughter. Back.

[6] Goethe had indeed returned to Weimar the previous evening in the company of Justus Christian Loder. Goethe was in Jena from 16 to 19 July 1796 (having already been there 28 April–8 June) (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:43–45). Back.

[7] Karl August Böttiger, Gymnasium director in Weimar, archaeologist, and an importunate gossip, was at the time on cordial terms with Friedrich Schlegel (L. Lier, Erich Schmidt, Jakob Minor, “Briefe von Friedrich Schlegel: I. Friedrich Schlegels Briefe an C. A. Böttiger,” Archiv für Litteraturgeschichte 15 [Leipzig 1887], 399–442, includes seventeen letters primarily from 1796–97 [two from 1813], all of which are now in KFSA; several letters from Wilhelm Schlegel to Böttiger were published in the Archiv für Litteraturgeschichte 3 [Leipzig 1873], 152–61). Böttiger initially went to considerable effort to cultivate a good relationship with Wilhelm and Caroline, the latter of whom he referred to with various expressions of admiration, viz.: “My most respectful regards to your gracious life companion, or, since at least one bit of idolatry is allowed before gods and human beings: your high priestess” (on 27 July 1796; Waitz [1882], 36; Körner [1930], 1:35); “my most ardent expressions of respect to your noble spouse” (on 4 January 1797; Körner [1930], 1:49); and from Weimar, concluding a letter on 23 November 1796 (Körner [1930], 1:43):

I am sitting here utterly trapped by two journals and by God knows how many other fetters. But I must, indeed I will sunder them all that I might sometime soon spend a delightful day in Jena. Then I will tell both you and your spouse — who has become, if such is possible, even more revered through everything the noble Göschen has told me about her — in person what this sheet of paper cannot hold. Back.

[8] Caroline is referring to the precarious situation prompted by the French campaign against Austria, which involved incursions into Germany as well. Cf. Ludwig Ferdinand Huber’s letter to Caroline on 27 June 1796 (letter 164) with note 4 and The Cambridge Modern History, ed. A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, and Stanley Leathes, vol. viii, The French Revolution (Cambridge 1907), 497:

The design of the campaign of 1796 was to attack Austria from the north and south at once. The Army of Italy under Bonaparte advancing northward across the Alps was to join hands with the Army of the Rhine under Moreau advancing from Strassburg, and with the Army of the Sambre-et-Meuse under Jourdan advancing from the Rhine Provinces. Bonaparte . . . succeeded beyond the wildest expectations; but for the moment the general plan of campaign fell through, owing to the failure of the northern armies. Early in June [1796] Moreau conveyed his army of 70,000 men across the Rhine at Kehl; and at the same time Jourdan, at the head of 45,000 troops, crossed the river at Neuwied. The Archduke Charles, commanding an army of 150,000 men, fell back before the advancing French, until towards the end of August, when Jourdan had captured Würzburg and Moreau was fast advancing upon Munich.

Then the Archduke, adopting the system by which Bonaparte was carrying all before him in Italy, sprang upon Jourdan before he could effect a junction with the Army of the Rhine and drove him backwards by a series of attacks, at Amberg on August 24, at Wurzburg on September 2, at Aschaffenburg on the 13th, and at Altenkirchen on the 19th. . . . On September 20 Jourdan recrossed the Rhine between Bonn and Neuwied. His army had suffered terribly, having lost nearly half its number in action, from hunger, disease, or assassination by the peasantry whom the soldiers had plundered ruthlessly during their advance. . . . Moreau, though at the head of a fine army, finding himself without supports and far from his base, was soon obliged to retreat; he achieved his return to Strassburg in perfect order. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott