Supplementary Appendix: Memoirs of Caroline Wilken, née Tischbein

Caroline Wilken, née Tischbein: Memoirs of the Schlegels in Jena [*]


Schlegel visited my parents often [in Amsterdam], soliciting their opinion of his poetic attempts and giving my mother instruction in English. My father greatly enjoyed the young poet’s talents, in whom he took an increasing interest, so much so that he was genuinely vexed at Schlegel’s affection for his subsequent wife, namely, the widow Böhmer, who was living in Mainz at the time. (W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):


To wit, even at that time a rather peculiar relationship obtained between this widow and Schlegel. Schlegel passionately loved this intelligent woman despite her more than ambiguous reputation, whereas she, by contrast, had already openly declared to him on several occasion that she did not love him but would marry him under the condition that she could divorce him as soon as she tired of their union. This strange condition was no secret to my parents, and they made every effort to emphasize to their friend its immoral nature.

And perhaps they might have succeeded in liberating Schlegel from the snares of this “brilliant witch,” as Father called her, had she not suddenly landed in a situation of enormous distress from which Schlegel felt it his sacred obligation to deliver her. Frau Böhmer had been arrested in Mainz on suspicion of political intrigues and saw to it that Schlegel was informed of such.

And now there was no stopping Schlegel; he gave up his advantageous position that he might hasten to his beloved’s assistance, succeeding in freeing her and later becoming her husband with the condition mentioned above. I no longer recall whether he left Holland before or after my own parents’ departure. [1] . . .

To be honest, I believe the Bertuchs [in Weimar] were not particularly sad to be rid of their little guests; [2] nor, however, was I myself sad, and was happy to be leaving a household where I encountered more prose than my own personality could bear.

By contrast, there was more than enough poesy in the Schlegel household in Jena, but little in the way of domestic orderliness. This household surpassed every possible creative disorder and became so repulsive to me that it was here that I myself first came to appreciate the necessity of better household management. As a result, I myself was much more orderly at the Schlegels’ than at the Bertuchs’. [3]

Life in the Schlegel household was spirited and lively. I have already spoken above about Frau Schlegel, formerly Böhmer, and about her relationship with Schlegel and the condition under which alone she agreed to give him her hand in marriage.

During the second year we lived in Dessau, he [Wilhelm Schlegel] brought his young wife and his extraordinarily charming stepdaughter to Dessau, where they stayed with us for about two weeks. This stepdaughter, Auguste Böhmer, was an amiable young girl about fourteen years old and had, one had to admit, been well raised. One frequently enough experiences that women of easy principles often go to considerable effort to imbue their daughters with quite the opposite inclinations, as if trying thereby to atone for their own sins or to fashion for themselves intercessors before God’s throne out of these beloved beings that might protect them from the poison consuming them. [4]

Auguste was a pure, untainted child; her stepfather adored her, and it was for the sake of this angel, whom the mother could consider so sacred and yet still ruin, that one could overlook the mother’s guilt. I believe such is how my parents viewed it; they were cordial toward Madame Schlegel even though my father, unmoved by her graceful intelligence, often dealt her unabashedly harsh words, which, however, she generally charmingly received and then blithely brushed off.

She was not beautiful at all, hardly even pretty, but her nice, supple, diminutive figure was quite graceful, as was her entire being, and her countenance, a bit disfigured from pock-marks, was so captivating, her eyes radiated so much intelligence, and her lips revealed such beautiful teeth when she opened them, that one can easily enough comprehend the excessive affection she elicited not only in Schlegel, but in many other men as well. [5] From Dessau, the Schlegels were heading to Jena, where he had accepted a professorship. [6]

Schlegel belonged to the guild of presumptuous writers at the time [7] that bestowed the stamp of creative intelligence on crudeness, derisive mockery, and the most audacious and impudent immorality, a guild whose heads were Schlegel and his brother Friedrich. It was from them that writings such as Lucinde etc. emerged, works with which, thank God! even men in part are unfamiliar now or, if they are, are able to judge for what they really are.

These impure products of the spirit, however, products that did in any case conceal the better side of their author, caused countless difficulties between Schlegel and my father, who cherished and indeed sought the company of academically educated men and was already associated through friendship with many scholars and writers; but my father, who was familiar with the young man’s earlier accomplishments, was quite indignant at these more recent Schlegelian products and expressed as much quite candidly and frankly to him. [8]

The first time I ever heard my father offer a rather ill response to anyone was when Schlegel was severely mocking someone in conversation with my father, even pronouncing an anathema on the person’s physiognomy. When my father objected that, after all, the man did not create his own face, Schlegel responded: “Ah, nonsense; every skillful person is capable of creating his own countenance!” Flushed with anger, my father countered, “Were that really possible, then you would especially have been advised to have created a different one for yourself.” —

You,” my father, vehemently perturbed, once said to Schlegel’s wife, “you are the snake who is seducing Schlegel, it is from you that he is receiving the ruinous poison that he might spread it further.” The clever woman laughed and was able to conjure away Schlegel’s rising anger as well as my father’s vehemence through this or that jesting remark. [9] The men remained friends out of long habit and natural good-naturedness, and at the Schlegels’ departure my mother had to promise to visit the couple, which now did indeed come about.

The Schlegels lived an extremely restricted life in Jena. Justizrath Hufeland lived across from them — if I remember correctly, the houses, separated only by a courtyard, belonged together. Hufeland’s wife was a quite elegant, cheerful woman, and, like her husband, quite good friends with the Schlegels.

At that time, many interesting men and their families made for quite attractive conviviality in Jena. Paulus, Mereau, Loder, Frommann were all friends with the Schlegels and Hufelands. Gries, too, belonged to this elite company, as did many young, amiable, and interesting students. It was a circle where joy and life held sway, replete with dancing, country outings, [10] small masquerades — everything that might attract, perhaps even allure young spirits. It was a lively, spirited time that I myself accepted quite unreservedly and was only too happy to enjoy. It was, however, also good that this period did not last too long, and that in Auguste I found the spirit whose influence and childlike company guided me more than did other impressions.

A few days after our own arrival in Jena, Schelling arrived, taking a room in the Schlegels’ house, [11] where he along with several other young people also took their midday meals. Those meals were not the best; to the contrary, one would be hard pressed to find more abominable, unhealthy food than was served here. Frau Schlegel often did not even know at 12:00 what she would have her cook prepare, in which case pickled cucumbers, potatoes, herring, and a distasteful watery soup would come to the rescue.

The seasoning for this meal was supplied by the intellectual ingredients from the hostess’s own indefatigable adroitness, a hostess who knew how to animate and stimulate everyone so thoroughly and bring her wit to bear so radiantly that for all the talk, the company would quite forget the food. The evening gatherings with tea and a cold meal were also quite pleasant, and the sausage and cheese there at least edible.

Frau Schlegel’s third husband, Schelling, attests the extent to which she knew how to win hearts. When he came to Jena [in 1798], the last thing Schelling ever imagined was that one day he might become such; indeed, he had even spoken quite negatively about Madame Schlegel, assuring everyone she would never bewitch him.

One thing is certain: the lady did indeed learn of these remarks. Under what circumstances she began taking him into her house — whether as a guest or renter I no longer remember — remained undiscussed. In a word: he came. My mother — unlike myself — soon noticed, as she later recounted, that a relationship had developed between Schelling and his hostess under which Schlegel suffered greatly. I can still recall that after a modest ball at the Schlegels’ home, after all the guests had departed and I myself had returned to the hall to fetch something or other, Schlegel and his wife strode in together quite agitated. He was weeping, while she looked extremely resolute and flushed with anger. I observed all this quickly and later related it to my mother. “They probably had an argument,” she responded casually, and I gave it no further thought. [12]

We spent some extremely pleasant hours at the Loders’, Hufelands’, and Frommanns’, houses where alongside intellectual nourishment there was also never a lack of earthly refreshment as well. The Hufelands once gave a small masquerade where I, dressed up as a sultana, and Schlegel, as a sultan, allegedly cut quite the couple. [13]

Yet another party, this time only for young people, ended in a way that quite frightened me off. Among various other pleasant, vivacious young people, a certain Winkelmann also belonged to this circle, someone who occasionally behaved more like a student than a refined gentleman. At the aforementioned party, while we were all sitting at the table after having played all sorts of games, Winkelmann, inspired by a bit too much punch, suddenly began to sing: “As ‘t were five hundred hogs, we feel / So cannibalic jolly!” [14] He accompanied this discourse with such expressions of cordiality toward his lady neighbor — who, fortunately, was not I — that I completely lost any inclination to stay longer. I stood up and immediately departed together with Auguste.

Toward the end of our stay in Jena, Friedrich Schlegel arrived. His initial appearance quite put me off. I was standing at the dining room window when a short, compact person, armed with a stout, gnarly walking stick and dressed in an extremely nondescript, indeed dirty suit, knapsack on his back, strode cheekily through the front door and then with equal cheekiness into the dining room. [15] I was utterly startled and thought a brazen beggar had entered the house. He noticed my discomfiture and likely would have taken the liberty to amuse himself with my embarrassment considerably longer had his sister-in-law not entered the room at just that moment and welcomed him. Friedrich Schlegel did not otherwise particularly please me, nor did the attention he paid me make me any more favorably disposed toward him. [16]

My mother finally began preparing for our departure. [17] Without quite knowing why, the longer we stayed, the more we noticed Schlegel’s troubled relationship with his wife. He was on edge and ill-humored, while she treated him with frosty contempt. Schelling acted as if none of this concerned him in the slightest, was cordial toward Schlegel at the same time he was behaving quite intimately toward the wife and demonstrating unusual tenderness toward her daughter, Auguste, which, however, the young girl gruffly rejected. [18] It was as if suspicions were emerging in the devout, pure soul of this dear creature against her mother and an aversion against the second stepfather who was being forced on her, an aversion that given her delicate spiritual and physical constitution led her to an early grave.

Auguste and I had a painful farewell; I confess I had as yet no inkling of how things would develop several weeks later. Auguste, however, melted into tears and did not want to let me and Betty go. We never saw each other again. [19]

The Schlegels’ marriage was dissolved soon afterward, [20] and several months later the divorced woman married Schelling. [21] My correspondence with Auguste continued even though she avoided speaking in her letters about the changed domestic situation as much as possible. Unfortunately, she died soon after her mother remarried, [22] and her death deeply saddened me. How her dear soul must have suffered through the degradation of her mother, whom she so dearly loved!


[*] Adolf Stoll, “Aus zwei Aufzeichnungen von Karoline Wilken über ihren Vater Johann Friedrich August Tischbein und über ihre eigene Jugendzeit,” in Der Geschichtschreiber Friedrich Wilken (Cassel 1896), 254–338, here 274–75, 301–7; reprinted with annotations in Adolf Stoll, Der Maler Joh. Friedrich August Tischbein und seine Familie: Ein Lebensbild nach den Aufzeichnungen seiner Tochter Caroline (Stuttgart 1923), here 63–64, 109–15. — Footnotes are those of the present translator and editor. — Portrait of Caroline Tischbein ca. 1798 by her father, Johann Friedrich August Tischbein (source: Karl & Faber Fine Art Collections; Auction 265: Old Masters & 19th Century Art; 13 November 2015; originally: Sotheby’s, London, Auktion 24 November 1983, Lot 497; from a private collection in northern Germany.) Back.

[1] Wilhelm did not resign his position as tutor in the family of Henry Muilman until July 1795, when he moved to Braunschweig, whereas the Tischbein family left Amsterdam on 7 November 1794.

Concerning the next section in these memoirs: Wilhelm, Caroline, and Auguste paid a visit to the Tischbeins in Dessau, whither the latter moved after leaving Amsterdam, around mid- to late-May 1797 on their way back from Dresden to Jena. The Tischbein family in their own turn spent time in Weimar and Jena during the spring of 1798, and it was during this period that Tischbein began the portraits of Caroline and Auguste that he then finished after their return to Dessau.

Sophie Tischbein then visited the Schlegel family in Jena from August till 20 September 1799 (her husband had gone to Karlsbad), initially only with her two-and-a-half-year-old son Karl, while her daughters only came over from Weimar occasionally. Once Caroline Schlegel’s Braunschweig relatives (Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich von Hardenberg had already been in Jena for a visit) departed, the two Tischbein daughters could also come stay with the Schlegels in Jena.

Concerning these details, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 5 October 1799 (letter 246). Friedrich Schlegel then also arrived in Jena between 2 and 5 September 1799, Dorothea Veit not until 6 October, after the Tischbeins had already departed. Back.

[2] Namely, Caroline Tischbein and her sister, Betty (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[3] Caroline did not see it that way; see her letter to Luise Gotter on 5 October 1799 (letter 246): “Of course, the three young girls, Caroline, Betty, and Auguste, made a frightful noise, and their room was a mess.” Back.

[4] A not uncommon theme in the moral thinking of the late Enlightenment; see the following juxtaposition of the matron who has lived a kind and virtuous life, and the matron who has not (Göttinger Taschen Calendar Für das Iahr 1798; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[5] Caroline is consistently said to have been of diminutive, petite stature and to have dressed smartly (Wiener Damenkalender zum Nutzen u. Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1801; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


She was, however, also known for having not been entirely disinclined to coquetry. Back.

[6] Because Wilhelm was appointed professor during the summer of 1798, Caroline Wilken seems to be speaking now about Wilhelm and Caroline’s visit to Dessau after 20 September 1798 rather than the visit in May of 1797, unless, of course, she is simply not being accurate with the dates of Wilhelm’s professorship. Back.

[7] To wit, the Romantic circle in Jena Back.

[8] Calendar für das Jahr 1796 (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


The author of Lucinde, of course, was Friedrich, not Wilhelm. Back.

[9] König. Gros-Britt. Genealogischer Kalender auf das 1779. Jahr (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[10] For example, in Zwätzen (also Zwäzen, Zwetzen) to the northeast of Jena (map: Franz Ludwig Güssefeld, Topographische Charte der umliegenden Gegend Von Jena / nach eigenen Messungen und andern Origin. Zeichnungen [Jena 1800]; reprinted in August J. G. K. Batsch, Taschenbuch für topographische Excursionen in die umliegende Gegend von Jena [Weimar 1800]; illustration: Heinrich Schneider, Die Burschenschaft Germania zu Jena [Jena 1897], 49):




[11] Schelling did not move in with the Schlegels and had, moreover, already been in Jena for a year. Concerning Schelling’s initial place of residence in Jena, see Friedrich, Wilhelm, and Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer on 6 July 1798 (letter 202a), note 7. Back.

[12] Göttinger Taschenkalender Für das Iahr 1799:


Dorothea Veit mentions having experienced similar scenes almost immediately after moving to Jena in early October 1799, indeed arriving only shortly after the Tischbein family had left for Dessau with Auguste. Dorothea writes to Schleiermacher on 11 October 1799 (letter 247a):

That is to say, one does not notice much evidence of the sacrament; they live together more as loving friends who are together voluntarily. But their petty quarrels, which sometimes can go quite far indeed, make me quite anxious; Caroline laughs at me on this account, but every time one arises I simply have to get away.

Similar scenes of such domestic arguments frequently occur in novels and plays of the time. Here one by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (Cher Lindorff – au nom du ciel calmez vous [1786]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.705):



[13] Stories about the exotic East were increasingly fashionable; here an 1800 illustration from the story “Der Schleyer [“The veil”]: Geschichtsanekdote,” about an episode involving Mahomet II in Constantinople, where he had gone to recover from the stresses of war, and another from the life of Prince Ahmed III (Frauenzimmer Almanach zum Nutzen u. Vergnügen für das Jahr 1800 and für das Jahr 1796; both illustrations: Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[14] Allusion to the drinking song from the scene “Auerbach’s Cellar in Leipzig” in Goethe, Faust. A Tragedy, trans. Bayard Taylor (Boston, New York 1870), here 96. The company in Auerbach’s Cellar, having been magically provided with wine by Mephistopheles, sings along with him (like Caroline Tischbein, Faust, too, is inclined to leave the company; illustration: Faust at far left, Mephistopheles leaning on the table next to him; Minerva Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1828; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Mephistopheles (with singular gestures).
Grapes the vine-stem bears,
Horns the he-goat wears!
The grapes are juicy, the vines are wood,
The wooden table gives wine as good!
Into the depths of Nature peer, —
Only believe, there’s a miracle here!
Now draw the stoppers, and drink your fill!
All (as they draw out the stoppers, and the wine which has been desired flows into the glass of each).
O beautiful fountain, that flows at will!
But have a care, that you nothing spill!
They drink repeatedly.
All. As ‘t were five hundred hogs, we feel
So cannibalic jolly!
Mephistopheles. See, now, the race is happy — it is free!
Faust. To leave them is my inclination.
Mephistopheles. Take notice, first! their bestiality
Will make a brilliant demonstration.
Siebel (drinks carelessly: the wine spills upon the earth, and turns to flame). Help! Fire! Help! Hell-fire is sent! etc.

Caroline Tischbein’s reference to Winkelmann as “someone who occasionally behaved more like a student than a refined gentleman” and her relief at not sitting next to him similarly (and vividly) evoke the boorish behavior of some university students.

University students’ generally unruly and even lewd behavior, which included drinking, carousing, and wenching, was proverbial. Click on the following image to open a gallery of representative illustrations of German university students on their less-than-best behavior:



[15] Friedrich is elsewhere indeed variously described as short, compact (or stout), and even “corpulent” (Salomon Savery, Mann mit Rucksack [1614–1678]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur SSavery AB 3.51):



[16] Göttinger Taschen Calender im Jahr 1784 (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[17] Concerning the chronological problems attaching to this date of departure, see the editorial note to Caroline’s initial letter to Auguste after that departure (letter 244). Back.

[18] See Caroline Tischbein’s letter to Auguste on 2 December 1799 (letter 257b), where she remarks: “[Auguste] Acts cold toward Schelling — who is so kind as to wish you might view him as a friend. But you have already come to regret it? and are now behaving more nicely toward him?” See esp. note 3 there with cross references. Back.

[19] Caroline Tischbein has forgotten that Auguste returned to Dessau with the Tischbeins and remained until 26 November 1799; that is, the final farewell took place in Dessau in November, not in Jena in September. Back.

[20] Wilhelm and Caroline’s divorce was finally granted on 17 May 1803, though they were indeed essentially separated after February 1801, when Wilhelm moved to Berlin, visiting Jena a final time during the autumn of that year (see the chronology). Back.

[21] Caroline married Schelling on 26 June 1803 (not 26 July as in Stoll, Der Maler Joh. Friedrich August Tischbein und seine Familie, 114n2). Schelling’s father performed the ceremony in the Church of St. Januarius in Murrhardt (anonymous photograph; second illustration: Berlinischer Damen Kalender auf das Jahr 1809; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[22] Auguste died on 12 July 1800, i.e., almost three years before Caroline and Schelling married. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott