Supplementary Appendix 2.1

Georg Waitz’s introduction
to Caroline’s letters in French to Julie von Studnitz [*]

A series of letters Caroline wrote to childhood friend Julie von Studnitz in Gotha [daughter of Ernst August von Studnitz] were recently passed along to me. The considerable interest elicited especially by the initial development of this highly gifted woman seems to justify publishing some longer excerpts from these letters, letters, moreover, providing yet another contribution to a characterization of the age, specifically of life in Göttingen at the time.

That notwithstanding, I do not necessarily share the opinion expressed here and there that everything this woman communicated to her friends, as talented and adroit in writing as she indeed was, should be published. Anyone who has perused a larger collection of letters, especially between intimate friends, knows how much insignificant and wholly quotidian material they generally contain that, really, is quite unsuitable for publishing; by selecting and pruning, one is essentially merely fulfilling an obligation both to the writers themselves and to their readers. I believe I proceeded with considerable restraint in the earlier publication [1871], eliminating as little as possible, and increasingly less the more important the life contexts were and the more significant the persons to whom Caroline was writing, and eliminating the least at the crucial turning point of her life, namely, when she became Schelling’s wife — a transition that should be presented with as much veracity and clarity as possible.

Such, however, could not be the case with respect to her early letters to her sister Charlotte and her friend Luise Gotter. More might perhaps have been included from the latter had the bulk of the material not reached me so late and had I not been afraid of having the otherwise accompanying augmentation swell unnecessarily.

Now, however, one can add Caroline’s letters to a second friend in Gotha. The first of these letters immediately follows the earliest extant from Caroline, namely, that of 4 September 1778. From here till 17 February 1784, we have nineteen letters, exactly as many as were previously known from this period. Some were also written on the same days as those others and thus naturally touch on the same subjects; more often, however, they fill not inconsequential gaps or discuss other, albeit often more modest experiences or illuminate other aspects in Caroline’s development and character. They conclude with her engagement to Franz Wilhelm Böhmer, concerning which here a more thorough account is given for the first time.

Unfortunately, they are written in French and thus lack the charm exhibited by Caroline’s manner of expression in her natural, native language from her early youth to her mature years. That said, however, they do nonetheless attest the adroitness with which the young girl also mastered this foreign language, which she wrote more correctly than most of her contemporaries [1] — here, too, I maintained her original orthography save for individual accents and incorrect contractions (‘), and added some punctuation—a language that did not at all hinder her from expressing her thoughts in the lively, vivid fashion as was her wont; as such, they are in general a testimony to the unusual education and talents with which she was blessed. One might bear in mind that Caroline had just turned fifteen when she wrote the first of these letters.

Georg Waitz


[*] “Aus Jugendbriefen Carolinens,” Preussische Jahrbücher 33 (1874), 211–12.

[1] See the following assessment of Caroline’s proficiency in French by Lauren Yoder (private communication, June 2011):

Caroline Schelling clearly feels comfortable writing French. Her vocabulary is rich and varied, rivaling that of a native speaker, and she easily handles complicated pronoun structures. Her use of verb tenses is exemplary. She does not shy away from complex combinations, manipulating the conditional, subjunctive and even imperfect subjunctive easily and correctly (in the one case in which an error is made—si jamais le ciel me rendit malheureuse, je ne le serois pourtant pas tout a fait — the absence of the imperfect in the first clause could just as easily be attributed to the person transcribing her letter as to her).

In orthography, her letters display a number of deviations from modern French usage, but in most cases such deviations were typical of the 18th century. Among such are interchanging the i and the y (as in the word la joye/joie), the use of oi instead of ai in imperfect and conditional endings or in words such as méconnoitre or anglois, and omitting the t or d or p in words and expressions such as un tems, ses talens, and je ne repons pas. Vous and Votre always begin with a capital letter, perhaps as an indication of respect for her friend Julie [ed. note: or as an accommodation to German orthography in the second-person pronoun Sie ]. It is a bit surprising to see that she almost universally replaces the -ez of verb endings (2nd person plural or polite) with -és, as in vous avés.

As did many writers in the 18th century, she uses accent marks very inconsistently. We also know that variations in spelling were also quite common then, though a few of Ms. Schelling’s were not likely among those typically seen, such as pourqu’oi, des Ameriquains, le cercoeuil, and en pleine meer. Her occasional failure to make proper agreement of adjectives or of past participles (elle est monté aprésent, je m’étonnne du préjugé que j’ai eue pour lui, etc.) suggests less than total mastery of gender or of rules for agreement of the past participle.

One might conjecture that some erratic spellings and surprise constructions (such as combien mal quadre cela avec mon temperament vif) are due to the epistolary form, for letters do not normally receive the same editorial care that one would expect in writing for publication. All in all, Ms. Schelling’s command of French is strong and of near-native quality. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott