Supplementary Appendix: Karoline Paulus’s Reputation

Karoline Paulus’s Reputation

Deserving or not, Karoline Paulus seems to have enjoyed an ambiguous reputation. Dorothea Veit maintains in a letter to Schleiermacher on 16 June 1800 (letter 263e) that as far as the marriage between Karoline Paulus and her husband, H. E. G. Paulus, was concerned, “there is not a trace of any real marriage with them.” In any event, no less a personage than Goethe is said to have favored her; see Dorothea’s brother Abraham Mendelssohn to Karl Friedrich Zelter on 12 August 1797: [1]

The only other thing I need to tell you is that Goethe is quite closely attached to Madam Paulus, reads all his things to her before having them published, and thinks quite highly of her judgment.

See also Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher on 16 June 1800 (letter 263a):

Goethe dallied with her for a while, finally abandoning her just as he does all of them; and yet he is still well disposed toward her, soliciting her more often than the others when he has company.

Dorothea, too, speaks quite suggestively to her in a letter on 26 October 1804: [2]

How grateful I am to you, my beloved, loving soul, for expressing your feelings for me! Indeed, I feel it myself and repeat it with delight, you are my chosen sister, the sister I have found, and like you, so also do I feel we are inseparable in spirit. My evil daemon, who always tries to intrude into my dearest relationships and spread its poisonous breath, pursued us at that time as well, [3] but like some hateful fog it merely ruined the green leaves but could not touch the root, and thus is our true love now destined to spread sunshine anew, and bring forth new, cheerful greenery, and new blossoms.

Apart from Friedrich’s sister, Charlotte Ernst, I have never loved a woman as I love you. Charlotte is an excellent, wholly honorable woman, and I wish you knew her; she would no doubt also quite come to love you as well; but admittedly she would perhaps not be so in love with you the way I am! yes, genuinely in love; how often do I yearn for your eyes, for the tone of your voice; like a lover, I have a genuine desire for you; if I were ever to see you again, you would be glad enough that I have lost so many teeth, for I do believe I would have to bite you.

Wilhelm Schlegel, too, seems to have courted her for a time in Jena. See Friedrich’s letter to Auguste on 15 July 1797 (letter 184a): “Tell your mother she needs to keep an eye on Wilhelm and his Paulusean flirtation.”

Perhaps the most trenchant characterization comes from Josef Körner, who refers to her as the “not exactly inaccessible Karoline Paulus.” [4]


Documents suggest that Friedrich Schlegel, too, may have had an affair of sorts with her. Rudolf Unger published four of Friedrich’s billets to her in Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 112–13, in two of which Friedrich seems to allude to such a relationship. Unger comments in an introductory fashion on these billets: [5]

The undated billets from Friedrich and Dorothea to Karoline Paulus from their early period in Jena, included in the appendix and organized according to an approximate sequence, I would prefer to leave without comment. A certain resonance with the erotic emotional sphere of Lucinde (written in the winter 1798/99) is unmistakable in Friedrich’s missives. Hence one might remark only that the reputation of Karoline Paulus — even though Caroline Schlegel’s witty malice [6] should not be accorded too much import — was, frankly, not the best in any case.

Her admirers included Goethe, Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, and even, it seems, Wilhelm Schlegel. Several of her own letters to Hegel . . . also strike a rather peculiar tone. For example, in 1808 she writes from Nürnberg to her friend Hegel, who had stayed behind in Bamberg, in a style essentially recalling the incriminating intimacy of Friedrich’s own billets to her, including such remarks as the following:

Everyone is leading what can only be called a genuine student’s life here. No one concerns himself with the other person, and each does whatever he pleases. We two ourselves [i.e., she and Hegel], for example, could remain as faithful to each other as we please without anyone becoming suspicious of it in the slightest.

Friedrich’s two billets to Karoline Paulus [7] presumably from November and December 1800, read as follows (in one not cited here in full, [8] he begins, “If I am no longer to hover between mistrust and ill temper, then please let me speak with you alone for an hour. Is every joy and every wish to turn into a revolution for me? . . . After dinner I will see whether you are sleeping”):

(1) Although yesterday I was merely angry that you could so brashly insult me, today I am depressed about it. — Am I to abandon all hope in your love? — It almost seems I was mistaken, though I am still having a hard time believing that.

If I am to see you today, let me know when —— ? ——


(2) I would perhaps be less concerned about disturbing your peace and quiet insofar as it is in some measure precisely through this so-called peace and quiet that you are inclined to a kind of frivolousness and the appearance of going on with normal life, neither of which is worthy of and for you.

But your hope, your faith are more sacred and beautiful to me than anything else. Hence do nothing that conflicts with that, and I for my part will do anything you want.

If only you knew the considerable extent to which I myself feel and believe this with you, then it would not be possible for you to believe that my embraces profane you.

It is truly painful for me that you can believe such. I absolutely do not want to tear you away from that divine hope and pull you down to a kind of pleasure that has far less value. I have no intention at all of making you happy. I merely want to unite with you as inwardly as possible. [9] Or was it merely deception that you thought you found something in me? — If we were indeed right, then you must become merely clearer to yourself and increasingly certain of yourself the more you are mine; in that way as well, instead of enjoyment taking the place of that hope, the latter will instead emerge from the former even more beautiful.

That other business is nothing. I can well believe that you find much in me incomprehensible; and in Dorothea doubtless equally as much, though in that case you do not sense it as clearly. In its place, however, you should believe in us. Tell me, have you yourself ever seen that two people can love each other more than we? [10] — You have according to your own conviction felt that one can love more and be loved more. Nor will we hold that against you for that; for feeling certainly counts for more than seeing. —



[1] Goethe: Begegnungen und Gespräche, vol. 4, ed. Renate Grumach (Berlin, New York 1980), 321; KGA V/4, 89fn; KFSA 25:391fn9, 465fn13. Back.

[2] Reichlin-Meldegg 2:326; reprinted in Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:140–41, though in both cases the texts were abridged; the full text is found in Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 28–29. Back.

[3] July/August 1801 in Bocklet; Dorothea seems to have insulted the Pauluses in a letter to Friedrich Schlegel that was inadvertently delivered to H. E. G. Paulus; Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 28–29; KFSA 25:281–82. Back.

[4] Krisenjahre 3:63. Illustration: König. Großer. und Churf. Braunschweig. Lünen. Genealogischer Kalender auf das 1774 Iahr; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung. Back.

[5] Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 182. Back.

[6] Caroline wittily (and maliciously) alludes to an affair between Karoline Paulus and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus in a letter to Julie Gotter on 2 January 1803 (letter 374), wondering “whether the father of the little boy for whom Paulus has to care and change diapers here is an apostle or an evangelist” (illustrations: [1] Taschenbuch für Damen auf das Jahr 1801 [Tübingen 1801]; [2] “Die untreue Gattinn” [“The unfaithful wife”], Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Gemein-Jahr 1809, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Clemens Brentano seems to allude to the same affair in a letter to Sophie Mereau from Neustadt on 31 October 1804 (Briefwechsel zwischen Clemens Brentano und Sophie Mereau, ed. Heinz Amelung, 2 vols. [Leipzig 1908], 2:102–3); speaking about the social situation among faculty members and spouses in Würzburg, he remarks that “Markus certainly does no credit to Madam Paulus, he being in any case someone whom everyone has described to me as a filthy, extremely ugly, refined Jew” (full text in letter 387i). Back.

[7] Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 113–14 (letters e, f); KFSA 25:206 (letters 123, 124); dating according to KFSA 25:545. Back.

[8] Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 112 (letter c); KFSA 25:205 (letter 121). Back.

[9] KFSA 25:547n4 notes the semantic ambiguity of this statement given the contemporary meaning of the word for “unite” (vereinigen), not least coming from the author of Lucinde. That said, Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, 25:276f does not attest a sexual connotation. Back.

[10] KFSA 25:547fn8 remarks that this reference is likely to Friedrich and Dorothea rather than to Friedrich and Karoline Paulus; Dorothea’s erotically tinged relationship with Johann Wilhelm Ritter could not have escaped Friedrich and Karoline Paulus’s attention. In his own commentary to Friedrich’s remark here (Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 183n113.15), Rudolf Unger suggests that this situation may be that to which Caroline alludes in a letter to Wilhelm on 29 June 1801 (letter 323):

Friedrich cannot love her [Dorothea] — it has already been a long time since he loved her, and during that winter [1799–1800] she herself no longer even believed such still to be the case. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott