Supplementary Appendix 276.1

Oskar Walzel’s Introduction
to Caroline’s letter to Goethe on 26 November 1800 (letter 276). [*]

Granite — that is what Caroline Schlegel called him [Schelling]. [1] The two met in August 1798, in Dresden, as the Romantics, united, were enjoying the art collections of the Dresden gallery together. Here he entered into a new world. The philosopher now encountered the aesthetic element for the first time; and in this new world, Caroline became the herald of an aesthetic doctrine of life hitherto unknown to him.

This strange alliance of the heart has already been illuminated often enough, an alliance into which the aging woman, unsatisfied in her marriage with Wilhelm Schlegel, entered with the younger man. [2] Here we are interested only in the fact that the shared veneration of Goethe elevates this entire relationship into a higher sphere, and that Goethe himself brings about the ultimate unification of the lovers. [3] In the only lengthier extant written document from Caroline to Goethe, she entreats the idolized man on behalf of the beloved — an extremely interesting document in connection with the novelistic reality of this alliance of the heart.

The person speaking in this document is half the concerned, motherly friend, and half the loving woman trying to adjure happiness and well-being down onto her charge’s head. How sincerely, how humbly does she phrase her request; and how ardently does her passion come to expression in every word. An appeal for help, a call of distress from the most profound depths of pain in her soul: She herself is weary and ill; only one person can help. She knows that by delivering Schelling’s well-being over to Goethe’s care, she is doing the best a friend can do for him.

And just as she entreats Goethe, so also does she push Schelling toward Goethe: “Do see Goethe often, and disclose to him your interior treasures. Bring to light the magnificent ore that is otherwise so brittle when one tries to expose it,” She consoles Schelling with Goethe on yet another occasion as well: “He loves you like a father, I love you like a mother — what wondrous parents you have! Vex us not.” [4]

Where otherwise do such words, such a tone resonate in the Schlegel-Tieck circle when the reference is to Goethe? Nowhere does the human being Goethe enter so powerfully into the emotional life of the Romantics. This letter simultaneously provides one of the few glimpses into Goethe’s personal relationship with Caroline.

We can now understand what Pauline Gotter wrote about Goethe to Schelling after Caroline’s death: “Almost his very first words expressed his sympathy in the loss of dear Caroline, and in as gentle and sincere a fashion as I might have expected from him.” Schelling responded, “I am truly touched by the manner in which, as you write, Goethe mentioned the passing of our friend to you.” And he recounts how during her final days, Caroline read Goethe’s “Johanna Sebus.” [5] “Goethe himself would have been moved,” he adds. [6]

Through Schelling, the entire connection between the Romantics and Goethe acquires a much more intimate character. In the winter of 1799/1800, around Christmas, Schelling is with Goethe in Weimar. Soon the circle becomes accustomed to soliciting Goethe’s opinion concerning its private matters. He is queried concerning whether this or that should be included in Athenaeum. [7] He supplies Hungarian wine to Caroline when she lies ill with nervous fever. [8] He is lovingly concerned with the external well-being and woe of these Romantic colleagues.

When Caroline then straightforwardly solicits his assistance on Schelling’s behalf, she alludes to an event that had profoundly grieved not just Schelling and herself. Her daughter, Auguste, had died suddenly and unexpectedly. [9] This precocious child, a true Bohémienne who jested with her stepfather Wilhelm, with Friedrich, and with Tieck, [10] and who evoked more tender emotions with Schelling, was the last ray of light in the increasingly gloomy and clouded relationships within the Romantic group itself, and the last bond keeping Caroline and Wilhelm together.

Her death prompted profoundly emotional verses from Wilhelm. [11] The decision is made to erect a memorial to her that will respectfully mark this painful loss. [12] And again Goethe’s advice is solicited, nor is he hesitant to give his opinion. [13]


[*] Goethe und die Romantik lxxi–lxxiii. — Footnotes are those of the present editor. Back.

[1] On 14 October 1798 (letter 204). Back.

[2] Walzel is referring to the biographical essays prior to 1898 included in this present edition. Back.

[3] Through his assistance in facilitating the divorce between Caroline and Wilhelm (covered later in this edition). Back.

[4] To Schelling in October 1800 (letter 270) and 18 November 1800 (letter 274d). Back.

[5] For a translation of this piece, see supplementary appendix 276.2. Back.

[6] Pauline Gotter to Schelling on 24 February 1810; Schelling’s response on 27 May 1810. Back.

[7] For example, Schelling’s “Heinz Widerporst” and Friedrich von Hardenberg’s “Christenheit oder Europa.” See Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Schleiermacher on ca. 15 November 1799 (letter 255c), note 7. Back.

[8] See Wilhelm’s letters to Goethe on 23 March 1800 (letter 258v) and 1 April 1800 (letter 259a). Back.

[9] On 12 July 1800 in Bocklet. Back.

[10] See esp. her letter to Friedrich and Tieck in April 1799 (letter 232). Back.

[11] Wilhelm’s cycle of poems Offerings for the Deceased. Back.

[12] Attempts to finalize this memorial are discussed in several letters over the next several years in this correspondence. Concerning the background to to this memorial, see Wilhelm’s initial letter in this regard to Schleiermacher on 5 October 1800 (letter 269b), note 9, the supplementary appendix on Auguste and the cemetery in Bocklet, and the gallery on Auguste’s memorial. Back.

[13] See, however, Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 26 March 1801 (letter 303). Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott