Supplementary Appendix 98a.1

Concerning Lotte Michaelis’s stay in Mainz in the autumn of 1790

See Therese Forster’s letter to her daughter Therese on 15 January 1803 (Therese Huber Briefe, 1:396):

I was acquainted with him for 5–6 months in Mainz, after his return from Paris, whither he had run to avoid having to watch his wife die [in childbirth], whom he had neglected while she was alive. But before that trip to Paris, similarly even before his wife died, I had as a visitor a certain demoiselle from Göttingen whom he had courted during his early youth [in Gotha] and with whom he had maintained amorous relations.

She wanted to travel with him on her trip back home to her parents in Göttingen. [1] I prevented it because of the scandal, and after her departure I discovered under her desk some letters from Monsieur Kotzebue that would have fit quite well in a bad novel, and in which he promised her considerable pleasure if she would make the trip with him “knee to knee” in the carriage, and other such improprieties.

([1]Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen aufs Jahr 1789; [2] Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergnügen [1808] [ed. W. G. Becker]; both: Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



The first time I found myself alone with Kotzebue — and this was during our first meeting — I returned these letters to him, adding that these pages were not exactly monuments either to his own discretion or wisdom or to the prudence of the demoiselle. He was nicely confused and quite frank in asking my pardon for his having been exposed from so mediocre a side of his personality. . . .

(Königl. Gros-Britt.Genealogischer Kalender auf das Jahr 1784; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


In his autobiography, Kotzebue does not mention having seen Lotte Michaelis in Mainz, neither during the ten days beginning 30 November 1790 nor after his return there on 12 January 1791, remarking only (Sketch of the Life and Literary Career of Augustus von Kotzebue. With the Journal of his Exile to Siberia. Written by Himself, Eng. trans. [London 1830], 207): “Any farther observations upon Mentz [Mainz] I waive.” Cf., however, Friedrich Matthias Cramer, Leben August von Kotzebue’s: Nach seinen Schriften und nach authentischen Mittheilungen dargestellt (Leipzig 1820), 213–14, whose account concurs precisely with Therese Forster’s account except that he suggests they suspected nothing:

Von Kotzebue traveled from Paris to Mainz, where he was hoping to find a much beloved lady whom he had known in Gotha and with whom he was engaged in a diligent correspondence, and in whom, moreover, he was hoping to acquire a traveling companion back to Lower Saxony. [2]

(Goettinger Taschen Calendar vom Jahr 1790; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung);


But before he even arrived, the respectable family [the Forsters] to whom this young girl had been entrusted, the latter of whom was yet entertaining hopes of seeing her elusive president [Kotzebue was president of the provincial government of Estonia], had — suspecting nothing — already sent the girl back home under the honorable accompaniment of a camlet weaver [Johann Heinrich Grätzel] traveling to the trade fair.

Since Kotzebue’s love letters to his “divine Lotte” had also been found among the papers the young girl had carelessly left behind, such were handed over to him on his arrival in Mainz [12 January 1791], albeit not without serious reprimand with respect to his behavior. He behaved quite simply in response; without any visible embarrassment, he admitted the amorous adventure — and went on his way. —

Such anecdotes, in which the seductive president, to enlist the words of one of his lovers, “would lie enchantingly and with moderate wickedness at the feet of his beauties” [3] — could be adduced in considerable numbers were it not quite sufficient merely to touch briefly on this side of his personality and life, a side that serves as a fully justified reproach especially here, confirming as it does the aforementioned suspicion [in Cramer’s discussion, though also in Therese’s remarks above], namely, that the spouse’s distress and sadness [at his wife’s condition] during his flight to Paris, overflowing as it does with tenderness and affection [evident throughout his autobiographical account], was nothing more than an affectation, a pose, one he was quite adroit at performing in the literary theater [viz., his autobiography] for the particular edification of sentimental souls.

The thwarted meeting with divine Lotte in no way disrupted Kotzebue’s anticipation of having a pleasurable stay in Mainz, where he lived with and for the theater, delighting as well in the “many pretty faces” he encountered there . . . remaining till the summer of 1791 . . .

In connection with the discovery that his correspondence was being monitored while he was in Mainz, Kotzebue also comments on how Ludwig Ferdinand Huber (Therese’s later husband) and others perceived him (Sketch of the Life and Literary Career, 67):

I sent the mansucript of the last-mentioned work [Philosophisches Gemälde der Regierung Ludwigs des Vierzehnten, oder Ludwig der Vierzehnte vor dem Richterstuhl der Nachwelt (Strasburg 1791)] to my publisher at Strasburgh. This gave occasion to some correspondence between us, when I uniformly found, that his letters were opened before they came into my hands. I complained of this to our minister at Mentz [Mainz], who enquired into the matter, but could procure me no satisfaction: it was affirmed, that they came thither opened. Never to this day have I been able to trace out by what means it could happen that the honour of being suspected as a spy, or concealed Jacobin was conferred upon me; but it appears to be my hard fate, that while Huber, with his associates, proscribe me as the advocate of despotism, the real supporters of that monster consider me as a dangerous democrat, whom they cannot watch with too jealous an eye.

It may have been Therese herself who prompted Lotte’s removal from Mainz by Georg Forster on 1 October 1790, as Forster himself relates in a letter to Sömmerring on 4 October 1790 after Sömmerring had left Mainz (Forster’s Briefwechsel mit Sömmerring, 546):

I took Lolo [Lotte Michaelis] to Frankfurt on Friday [1 October 1790], stopped at Madam Brentano’s, went to see Grätzel and Willemer, and before I had even returned, she [Lotte] was already wandering around with Arenswald and Reulwitz Jr., so much so that we had to wait for her for quite some time with the meal. Fortunately her suitcase had not yet been sent on, so she took some clothes out and will be staying there until today [4 October] with Madam La Roche, since Grätzel wants to see the entry processional [Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany, had been elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation on 30 September 1790 and crowned on 9 October as Leopold II]. I was glad to return that evening to my wife.

Sömmerring responded to this part of Forster’s letter later that month (ibid., 548):

I am indeed quite glad to have been so honorably dismissed by Lolo. She could never have been really fond of me, since she hardly loves even herself, and I would never have come to terms with her small figure [concerning Lotte’s diminutive figure, See Luise Wiedemann’s biography of Lotte in her memoirs, p. 86].

The Clermonts [a family from Aachen] also claim to have noticed her being terribly coquettish. Now I am astonished at having allowed myself to become entangled in so coarse a piece of yarn.

To which Forster responds on 9 October 1790 from Mainz (ibid., 550):

In retrospect, Lotte’s character appears in an increasingly bad light. In fact, it is quite pitiful and wretched. More on which in person should you be so inclined.


[1] Lotte would have traveled through Marburg back to Göttingen (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[2] Nothing of that correspondence seems to be extant. Back.

[3] Goettinger Taschen Calender vom Jahr 1787 and 1790; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Countless illustrations during this period attest the interest in the full spectrum of romantic relationships in a bewildering variety of contexts, ranging from genuine to unrequited love and from marriage out of inclination to abduction; here four samples by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (Die sonderbare Art Schwiegermutter zu gewinnen [1780]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [4-255]; Heyrath durch Zuneigung [1788], Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Museumsnr./SignaturDChodowiecki AB 3.765; Cecilia oder die Geschichte einer reichen Waise [1787]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [5-376]; Gott wenn ach! [ca. 1797–98]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [7-514]):





See also Chodowiecki’s illustrations of the “five romantic crises” young women might face. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott