Letter 214

• 214. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena, late 1798, early 1799

[Jena, late 1798, early 1799]

|488| . . . I still have nothing from the Ifflands. Neither is particularly fond of writing, and at precisely this moment he in particular is quite busy. [1] — The Schützes left for Berlin today amid this cold spell. The wife is crazy. They cannot pay for the most necessary things, she allows herself to be deceived by shop servants, and yet curiosity drives her outside . . .

The Life of Diderot is lying in the innermost chamber of Schlegel’s desk. He has not yet gotten round to writing the piece that made him want to read it through in the first place. [2] It will not be passed along to anyone else. If, however, you nonetheless still would prefer to have it back, just send your final instructions in that regard. You do not need to treat it as a secret in any case. It is also in Weimar, and various excerpts from it have appeared in several publications elsewhere as well. — I am surprised, however, that you do not ask about the Castle of Otranto — Notwithstanding it has only been in the most exquisite of hands, its pink covering has already faded so much that, when Goethe, who has it now, returns it to me, I intend to have it rebound. [3] . . .

So, Minchen, too, has no intention of saving Gotha’s honor. O, ye people “with crooked heads and hard hearts”! [4]

|489| Poor Fleischmann and his family! [5] — A certain Zumsteeg in Swabia has also composed music for Die Geisterinsel. [6]

We are looking forward to Cecile. Auguste received a beautiful new clavier from Dresden for Christmas.

Regards to Minchen and to your good sister. [7]

Your Caroline

Notes

[1] At issue is the disposition of two of Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s posthumous plays (Der schöne Geist, Die Geisterinsel), which Caroline was trying to place with Iffland in Berlin; see her letters to Luise Gotter immediately after Gotter’s death in March 1797, then on 2 May 1798, late June/early July 1798, and later on 1 April 1799 (letters 200, 202, 233) (see also supplementary appendix 181.1). Back.

[2] Presumably “Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de la vie et des ouvrages de Diderot, par Madame de Vandeul, sa fille”; see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 15 October 1797 (letter 188), with note 8. Back.

[3] Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer’s translation Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (London 1765) as Die Burg von Otranto. Eine gotische Geschichte (Berlin 1794). Goethe solicited Wilhelm Schlegel in this regard from Weimar on 15 December 1798 (Goethe und die Romantik 1:39):

I come to you yet again today with a request for the Burg von Otranto. I would very much like to initiate into these wondrous things several ladies who have not yet read it.

Wilhelm answered from Jena the next day (Goethe und die Romantik1:40):

You are receiving herewith the Burg von Otranto, whose rather dirty appearance at the very least lends it an air of legitimacy as an interesting piece, and notwithstanding its pages have become so worn from being turned by nothing but the most elegant of hands.

Goethe sent the translation back on 28 December 1798 (Goethe und die Romantik 1:44):

I am herewith returning to you the Burg von Otranto in a new covering. If this one, too, like its predecessor, should become worn from so much reading, probably not much of the book itself will remain either. Back.

[4] “Mit schiefen Köpfen und harten Sinnen,” Ezk. 2:4. Luther reads: “harte Köpfe und verstockte Herzen“, NRSV “impudent and stubborn.” Caroline’s reference to Wilhelmine Bertuch here is otherwise obscure. Back.

[5] Friedrich Fleischmann had died in Meiningen on 30 November 1798. He had earlier composed music for Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s singspiel Die Geisterinsel (1796). He left behind a wife, Johanna Christiane Louise, née von Schultes (1771–1856) and four children, including three daughters (Fanni, Carolina and Wilhelmine) and one son (Wilhelm Thurecht). Back.

[6] Concerning the disposition and fate of Gotter’s pieces, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in March 1797 (letter 181) with note 2; concerning Die Geisterinsel specifically, cf. supplementary appendix 107a.1. Back.

[7] Likely Luise Gotter’s sister-in-law, Lorchen Gotter. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott