Supplementary Appendix 137c.1

Concerning the relationship between Wilhelm Schlegel, Caroline, and Georg Joachim Göschen, see the following account by Göschen’s grandson, Viscount Goschen, The Life and Times of Georg Joachim Goschen, Publisher and Printer of Leipzig 1752–1828, 2 vols. (New York, London 1903), 2:173–81 [*]:

Amongst the men with whom Goschen established relations of friendship, both personal and literary, in the course of the period 1792 to 1797, was the well-known A. W. Schlegel, translator of Shakespeare, poet, critic, philosopher, and one of the founders of the Romantic school. He has already been mentioned in these pages as the mediator, in the year 1797, between Schiller and Goschen after their long estrangement.

So far as I have been able to ascertain, the two men were first drawn together by a most strange incident — an incident which it seems well to record, as an illustration of the general upheaval of society and of the bearings of the conflict between revolutionary licence and reactionary sternness on the fortunes of individuals in the last decade of the eighteenth century, while at the same time the part which my grandfather bore in it, is of biographical interest.

The incident is an episode in the adventurous and stormy life of a very notorious woman, sometimes described in history as Caroline Boehmer, sometimes as Caroline Schlegel. The daughter of a Göttingen professor, Michaelis, she first married a young country doctor from Clausthal in the Hartz Mountains, of the name of Boehmer; [1] next, some time after his death, Wilhelm Schlegel; and thirdly, on being divorced from the latter, the philosopher Schelling.

She was, in short, one of those fascinating, brilliant, and emancipated women who were not unnatural products of an age throbbing with the ferment of an ardent and often violent intellectual movement, rebelling against the restrictions, political and social, which the laws and systems till then in force had imposed, revolutionary in every direction, and ready for the slackening of religious and moral ties.

After the death of her first husband, the young widow went to Göttingen, where she found a home in her parents’ house, but after a time (in the year 1792), seeking a more congenial atmosphere, she transferred herself to Mainz, where she became an intimate associate of the Therese who, leaving her husband, Georg Forster, the clubbest, stole the fickle Huber from Dora Stock. Caroline at once threw herself into the ranks of the French part and the Jacobin Club, which, under Forster’s leadership, had been established on the French model. It was Rulffs’ alleged association with this club which had been his ruin.

But her stormy nature was not content even with the violent emotions of revolutionary politics. Torn by various personal disappointments, with no moral moorings, she drifted early in 1793 into a disreputable liaison with a French officer. When the French, in the summer of that year, evacuated Mainz, and the Germans re-entered the city, full of fury at the betrayal to the enemy of this the most important fortress of the Rhine, Caroline, like Rulffs, but with more reason, was hunted down by the German authorities. [2] Nor can this cause surprise, seeing that she had been the most intimate friend of Forster, who had gone himself to Paris as a delegate of the Mainz democrats, and whose associates had not only betrayed the fortress, but had formed themselves into a kind of provisional government, and proclaimed the inhabitants of all the Rhine regions between Landau and Bingen to be freed from allegiance to their German rulers.

The deeply implicated woman was thrown into prison near Frankfurt, and subjected to much rigour. No influence seemed powerful enough to secure her release. Governments dealt relentlessly with revolutionists. At last her brother, Philip Michaelis, a volunteer army surgeon, obtained her pardon from the King of Prussia. Still she remained a disgraced woman, branded with political shame, and about, before long, to bear a child to the French officer.

The family with whom she had maintained the closest relations from her Göttingen days were the Gotters, living in Gotha. Gotter was a man of letters, some of whose writings were published by my grandfather; the wife, Louise, had been Caroline’s most attached friend since her girlhood. The Gotters decided that she must go into hiding. But at this stage a faithful and enthusiastic man, Wilhelm Schlegel, flew to her side. When a student at Göttingen, he had fallen in love with her, and, though she had not accepted his suit, a romantic friendship had been established between them, mainly, it is true, on his side. He hurried from Amsterdam, where he held an appointment as tutor in a Dutch family, and escorted her to Leipzig. I fancy she told him all. In her eyes he was nobly unselfish. “For from the nature of my confidence,” she wrote to a friend, “I could offer him no reward.” [3]

It is said that Wilhelm Schlegel took Caroline to Leipzig to place her under the guardianship of his brother Friedrich — a singular choice, if true, for Friedrich, a student at Leipzig, was quite a young man at this time, and though endowed with some brilliant qualities, of an undisciplined character and fantastic mind. But Wilhelm found more efficient protection for the unhappy woman in another quarter — in my grandfather’s house.

How it came about that Goschen’s house was selected for a refuge under such extraordinary circumstances, I do not know. Possibly Gotter, his client, had thought of him; possibly one of the two Schlegels had some acquaintance with him, and had heard of his unfailing readiness to help those in distress; or his rescue of Rulffs, like Caroline a refugee in Mainz, had suggested the idea. Wilhelm could not have known him well, as six months afterwards he spoke of their short acquaintance.

However that may be, the tradition in my family is that Caroline presented herself alone at my grandfather’s house; that my grandmother was startled when her womanly eye noticed the condition of her visitor, but gave her an asylum in her own home, without regard to any possible complications. Once more we have a proof of the courage and humanity which reigned in that home. To take in such a fugitive involved no ordinary risk, and few cared to run it. The Rhenish dukes would not suffer this intimate of Forster’s to settle in their territories, and we know the extreme sensitiveness of the Saxon police.

This woman compromised all who approached her. One of her oldest and closest friends, F. L. Meyer, once librarian in the Göttingen University, now settled in Berlin, to whom she had written from my grandfather’s house that Berlin would afford a discreet asylum, answered her with disappointing coldness. If Goschen’s friends were right in warning him in the case of Rulffs, how much greater was the risk in harbouring this notorious agitator! As to the Saxon authorities themselves, and their severity in dealing with persons tainted with revolutionary antecedents, Caroline herself related, in her letter to Meyer, that the regulations were so strict that they would not permit the presence of Mauvillon, because he had been a friend of Mirabeau, though he was actually an officer in the service of the Duke of Brunswick. [4] But nevertheless my grandfather did not flinch.

How long she remained in Goschen’s house, I do not know, [5] nor whether her child was born there; for difficulties, as expected by Caroline, were raised by the authorities. She was obliged to move to a little village of the name of Luppa (or Lucca), not far from Leipzig, but beyond the Saxon border, [6] and other troubles and scandals arose. But Schlegel and his friend were ineffably grateful to the Goschens for their timely and humane assistance, all the more so, perhaps, as, when the period of her hiding came to an end, Caroline still found herself a proscribed person, a kind of outlaw, shunned for a time by all except her very oldest friends. At Göttingen, where she went on a visit to her mother, the authorities bade her leave, as a woman who had disgraced a respectable family. [7]

Schlegel wrote to my grandfather from Amsterdam, in February, 1794, when his friend was about to leave the village where she had been hidden: [8]

May I ask you to dispatch the enclosed letter to my friend? Should she have already left Luppa, you are sure to know her address. That the generous zeal with which you interested yourself in her, and thus also in me, remained unchanged to the end, makes me deeply grateful. The memory of our acquaintance, short as it is, is very dear to me, and I am sure it will never fade in my heart. Please let me preserve your affection also, and give my most special messages to your wife and the whole of your family. Good-bye, and don’t try your health too much in the many troubles the Wieland undertaking must be causing you.

In a later letter he wrote:

I am sorry that your kindnesses to my friend have occasioned rumours which must have been disagreeable to you. However, I should think that such gossip would be much too improbable to be of any consequence, and would soon be forgotten. It is to be hoped that Caroline’s circumstances will soon make it possible to take her son away from Luppa, and then everything will be forgotten very quickly there, as well as in Leipzig.

But the child did not leave Luppa; it died before Caroline removed it. In 1795 she migrated from Gotha to Brunswick, and there made a home with her mother, her sister, and the only child (her daughter Augusta) which had survived of the three which she had borne to Boehmer. And Schlegel had left his tutorship in Amsterdam, and joined her at Brunswick, so that they might live “side by side.” Friedrich reported Wilhelm’s happiness to Goschen —

My brother has now for some time been safely in port, and enjoys the happiness of friendship which he has missed for so long. May his happiness, and that of his and our friend, be as lasting as, in its outward aspect at least, it seems to be favourable. For in Berlin there is the most liberal tolerance, and there is not the remotest recollection of the former political ostracism.

Soon after Schlegel’s arrival in Berlin, [9] Caroline added the following postscript to a letter from her friend to my grandfather. I think it clearly refers to the death of her child: [10]

Schlegel has handed me this letter for posting, but I cannot seal it up before doing what I should like to have done long ago but for my constant fear of interrupting your business; for I have not yet acknowledged the receipt of the sad little packet which you sent me, nor thanked you for your sympathy. Time will not heal the sense that through this death I have lost the possibility of my happiness, even of my inner peace; and if what I thus feel in me is at all less acute, it is only because it has been blunted by my becoming used to sorrow and loss. To have Schlegel here till his further fortunes are decided is really a consolation to me, till this joy also passes away. [11]

A remarkable intimacy seems to have grown up between this most emancipated woman and the very Godfearing, highly domestic circle in the publisher’s house. It is a curious illustration of the strange topsy-turvydom of my grandfather’s times. With all his knowledge of her past life and character, the respectable pater-familias seems, from the following letter to him from Caroline, to have sounded her with respect to the acceptance of some post where she would have had charge of children At the time it was written Caroline was apparently living as Schlegel’s mistress: [12]

Braunschweig, January, 1796

Dearest and kindest of Friends,

I press your hand in hearty gratitude for your care of me, and your thought of me. This last proof of them has been among the most precious to me, for now I have seen with more certainty and comfort that you do not wish to forget me, and that you have confidence in me.

Now, as to the subject of your letter, I must confess that it does not fall in with the plans which I have formed for my life. Even if the obstacle that it is impossible for me to separate myself from my child could be got over; if it should possibly be considered not disadvantageous that I should bring a play-fellow with me for the child in question, I must confess to you, my dear friend, that something else holds me back. I cannot separate myself from the friend of whose fidelity and love no one can be more convinced than you; that is as much as to say that it would be equally impossible for him again to live quite at a distance from me, and if, sooner or later, the moment should come when his career should summon him away from me, I expect we shall have to make up our minds to change our present alliance (Bündniss) into another one, so that I can follow him decently. Then, too, I shall see you again, and your wife, and the whole of your family. Though I have not yet heard direct how you have been faring, I have heard through Gotter all the evil and the good that have happened. The evil is forgotten, for the good remains. You are “foolish for your friends,” to use your own expression, and that reacts upon me. . . . Good-bye, dearest friend. There is no day on which I do not think of your house. A thousand greetings to your wife.

Caroline B.

Six months afterwards, Schlegel and his friend regularized their relations by marriage, and made Jena their home. For a few years Caroline’s stimulating presence, brilliant talents and literary powers, were doubtless of much use to Schlegel; but she had no stability. Thrown into the companionship of Schelling — a very ardent lover, though a profound philosopher — she fell in love with him as she had never been in love with Schlegel, and a little more than four years after her marriage, stories connecting her name with Schelling took such a shape that they reached the reluctant ears of her old friend Goschen. In October, 1800, he wrote to [Karl August] Böttiger:

I hear such strange things about Caroline Schlegel, that I no longer think it worth while to make myself unhappy about it. It is said that she is divorced, and has become Schelling’s cosmic soul. I won’t believe it till I must no longer doubt it.

But that time soon came, and Caroline Schlegel passed out of my grandfather’s life.

The domestic history of the two Schlegels presents a curious picture of the looseness of matrimonial ties in those days. Schelling took Schlegel’s wife very peaceably, and Friedrich obtained his by the divorce of Dorothea, daughter of Moses Mendelssohn, from her husband, the banker Veit. Like Caroline, Dorothea was brilliant and highly cultivated, and, like Caroline, she was content to live with her second choice for a considerable period without legitimatizing their relations.


[*] In English in original. Count Goschen spells Göschen’s name without the umlaut, refers to Lucka as “Luppa,” and is otherwise misinformed with respect to certain details. Footnotes by the present editor. — Several letters from Wilhelm Schlegel to Georg Joachim Göschen (7 February 1799; 29 April 1799; 11 October 1799; 26 April 1800) were published in Karl Goedeke, “Kleine Mitteilungen: 12. Vier Briefe A. W. Schlegels an Göschen,” Weimarisches Jahrbuch für deutsche Sprache, Literatur und Kunst, ed. Hoffmann von Fallersleben and Oskar Schade, 4:1 (1856), 26–30. Back.

[1] Franz Wilhelm Böhmer was from Göttingen. Back.

[2] She was arrested fleeing Mainz earlier that spring. Back.

[3] Caroline to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer on 30 July 1793 (letter 132). It was not the Gotters who advised Caroline to go into hiding; in fact, she herself gave them a pretext for doing so, and it seems they never learned of her pregnancy. Back.

[4] Caroline to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer on 30 July 1793 (letter 132). Back.

[5] Caroline seems to have stayed there from mid-July through approximately the first week in August. Back.

[6] Even today Lucka is situated on the seam between the three central German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia, belonging in fact to the latter. Back.

[7] See the rescript of the Hannoverian University Board of Trustees (letter/document 146). Back.

[8] These two excerpts now constitute letter 139a in the present edition. Back.

[9] Correct: Braunschweig. Back.

[10] Caroline to Georg Joachim Göschen from Braunschweig on 9 August 1795 (letter 152d). Back.

[11] Caroline does not otherwise mention this “sad little packet,” which presumably contained keepsakes or other such items associated with her deceased son. Back.

[12] Caroline to Georg Joachim Göschen from Braunschweig in January 1796 (letter 161a). Back.

© 2014 Doug Stott