Supplementary Appendix 172.1

Concerning xenion 273 (original numbering) and its interpretation, see Erich Schmidt, Xenien 1796. nach den Handschriften des Goethe- und Schiller-Archivs, ed. Erich Schmidt and Bernhard Suphan, Schriften der Goethe-Gesellschaft 8 (1893), 95:

815. (273.) To Madame B** and her Sisters.
Though now you are yet a Sibyl, soon to be a Parca, I fear
All of you will ultimately end up dreadfully as Furies.

[Schmidt elucidates (ibid., 206–8):]

A difficult distich. Brun or Böhmer? Caroline Böhmer-Schlegel . . . quite readily — or perhaps craftily? — interpreted it as referring to Friederike Brun. Daniel Jenisch, Literarische Spiessruthen oder die hochadligen und berüchtigten Xenien (Weimar, Jena, Leipzig 1797), however, interprets: “Madam B—r, currently Madam S—l in Jena. The sisters: her lady friends.” But does the Faustian devil in 814 [272] [“Faust has already sold himself to the devil quite often in Germany”] really lead us to the woman who later incurred such hatred in Schiller’s circle as “Dame Lucifer“?

First: According to his own letters to Meyer, who had sent him satiric accounts from Rome concerning the artistic taste and art acquisitions of the German-Danish writer Friederike Brun, née Münter, Matthisson’s friend, Goethe was already disinclined toward this “travelling lady” and was already sharpening one or two arrows to use against her.

After even more venial words to Schiller [1] he requests additional news from Heinrich Meyer on 9 March 1796 concerning “the exact nature of our countrymen’s transgressions against Raphael and other sacred objects, that the secret court might begin considering what punishment they merit.” This passage occurs in the Weimarer Ausgabe 11:312, in response to Meyer’s allusion to Matthisson and Friederike Brun’s anticipated invectives against the Transfiguration of Christ.

In the letter concept, Goethe writes: “I am hoping the mischief perpetrated in Rome by the new caravan from the North will prove legitimate in time and will be incinerated amid a great conflagration with other batches of weeds as well.” In a letter to Meyer on 30 October 1796 (ibid.,11:248–49) he explicitly includes “that most excellent travelling lady” among those against whom an extremely plucky “declaration of war” was conceived in Schiller’s Musen-Almanach, whereby “this exemplary model will allegedly provide Meyer with an idea of the Christian-moralistic-aesthetic nonsense that has gathered on the shores of the Baltic in the most impotent self-importance.”

Hence Madam Brun is also included in the xenion directed against Stolberg’s Italian journey [Reise in Deutschland, der Schweiz, Italien und Sizilien in den Jahren 1791 und 1792 (4 vols., 1794)], where, by the way, Raphael is virtually deified. She is probably also to be found in the character of the superior, finicky, pious foreign woman in the Sammler und die Seinigen [a novel co-authored by Goethe and Schiller, finished in May 1799, “a small family portrait in epistolary form intended as a light-hearted portrayal of the various directions which both artists and art lovers can take when they focus on individual parts rather than on the whole of art” (Goethe to Meyer, 27 November 1798)].

On 4 May 1796 Meyer wrote that Nemesis had already taken revenge on Madam Brun through art itself for the sins she committed against art, namely, by prompting her to buy worthless pieces at exorbitant prices. If this xenion is speaking about her, then the gist is that Madam Brun and her pious sisters are being transformed from Sibyls who issue oracles concerning art and religion into judges from hell itself and Furies — one need only think of Raphael’s persecution; a quite plausible interpretation.

Nor does the late insertion and the next, Schillerian-tinged xenion, since even 821 [279] [“279: The highest purpose of art. / Too bad about the wonderful talent of the splendid artist! Oh, if only he had / Fashioned us a crucifix from the block of marble!”] is an addendum directed against the pious ones from the Baltic Sea.

On the other hand, the wording of xenion 273 does allow a political interpretation with respect to the women who prophesied such triumphs for the French Revolution; indeed, a shot of this sort grazed Caroline in xenion 845 [347 in original numbering; see note 2 in letter 172]. In that case, “Madam B**” could be Madam Schlegel, who in Mainz had been the much-cited “Böhmer woman” and because this reference was to be veiled. In 1796, three years had passed since that time.

But even though she, whom the Körners so disliked, was perhaps not quite to be trusted, nonetheless even after the situation between Friedrich Schlegel and Schiller, contact with Schiller was still quite alive, and there was no real reason to caricature her as a Sibyl, Parca, or Fury . . . et adhuc sub judice lis est [“and the case is still before the court” (from Horace)]. Hermann Hüffer, Erinnerungen an Schiller; mit bisher ungedruckten Briefen von Herder, Schiller und Goethe (special September Trewendt-printing from the Deutsche Revue) (Breslau 1885), 9, proceeds too vehemently against Caroline; he shows (11) that the malicious nickname “Dame Lucifer” derives from the regent Philipp of Orléans, who used it to refer to his wife. Madams Böhmer and Brun have also been confused elsewhere; Waitz (1882), 19, writes:

A poem by the same man [Gottfried August Bürger] in the Göttinger Musenalmanach (1790), “To B., née M.” [Brun, née Münter, not Böhmer, née Michaelis] was interpreted as referring to her . . . Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer . . . wrote to Bürger: “But then who is B., née M.? Is it Caroline B[öhmer]? But that cannot be, for she certainly bloomed longer than three days for you” [Caroline to Luise Gotter on 8 March 1789 (letter 91), note 4].

It is indeed true that during her saddest period Caroline did have letters addressed to her using the pseudonym “Madam Brun” (Friedrich Schlegel writes to Wilhelm on 24 December 1793: “Let me ask you in any event, after receiving this letter, to address your letters to C. ‘to Madam Brun’ in care of Göschen” [letter 137a]. Schiller’s initial, still tentative assessment of Caroline Schlegel — in a letter to Wilhelm von Humboldt on 22 July 1796 (not 25 December 1795 as in Geschäftsbriefe Schillers; see Wilhelm Fielitz, review of Geschäftsbriefe Schillers, ed. Karl Goedeke (Leipzig 1875), Archiv für Litteraturgeschichte 5 [1876], 455–81, here 463–64 concerning the version of this letter in Geschäftsbriefe, 179, letter 109, the date of which Fielitz corrects to 22 July 1796) reads: “[She] has considerable conversational talent, and one can get along very easily with her; now it depends on whether a lengthier acquaintance, particularly if such is to become more intimate, might not disclose some thorn or other” [see Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena, 11 July 1796 (letter 165) with note 5].


[1] The reference is to Goethe’s letter to Schiller on 19 July 1795 and his remarks concerning Friederike Brun (Correspondence between Goethe and Schiller, 83):

Unfortunately, therefore, this spirit of arrogant superficiality is also making itself heard in Rome, and probably our lady friend will there become more intimately acquainted with the three styles. It is scarcely conceivable what a strange mixture of self-delusion and clear-sightedness this woman requires for her existence, and it is extremely remarkable what terminology she and her friends have invented for themselves in order to remove what does not suit them, and to set up what does, like the serpent of Moses. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott