Supplementary Appendix 427.1

Henrik Steffens and Carl Friedrich von Rumohr in Krempelsdorf/Lübeck
Winter 1807–8 [*]

Herr von Rumohr had just returned from Rome, where he had spent several years and developed quite close relationships with the Riepenhausens brothers and Overbeck. [1] Though still quite young, he had already acquired an extensive and solid acquaintance with paintings and was, moreover, in the enviable position of being able to pursue his inclinations as he wished. [2]

I made his acquaintance in Hamburg, and he invited me to spend a couple of months at his chateau near Lübeck. [3]

I had now learned that the university at Halle was to be reestablished. Niemeyer, who had been taken to France as a hostage, visited Paris after the peace and after having received permission to leave Pont à Mousson, the town in which he was being held. He was not entirely unknown in Paris as a writer, was able to make the acquaintance of some important and influential people, and it is to him alone that Halle owes Napoleon’s permission to reestablish the university. His merit in this regard ought to be acknowledged. Not only were professors and their families rescued from extremely gloomy circumstances, the university was as well.

As embittered as Napoleon was, he would perhaps otherwise have resolved to close down the university once and for all. The university endowment would doubtless have been quite welcome to the new Kingdom of Westphalia and would have been put to completely different use, and it would then have been uncertain and indeed highly unlikely Halle would ever have had a university again. Hence one ought not forget how much the town of Halle owes to Niemeyer.

When I received official word concerning the reestablishment of the university and the summons to report there myself, I resolved at least temporarily to accept what was for me the only possible way to support my family. The health of my children, however, was not such that we could make the journey during the winter, and my own presence in Halle not really required until the opening of lectures in the spring [of 1808]. Hence till then my family remained at our grandmother’s house in Hamburg, and I myself followed Herr von Rumohr to Lübeck.

Lübeck, Winter 1808

One particular reason I was eager to accept my friend’s gracious invitation was that I hoped to find time again for my own studies, something that did indeed happen there, and most excellently. A profound peace and quiet reigned in the solitary house of this young man; Herr von Rumohr, too, incessantly pursued his art studies, and with unusual zeal. I recall that at that time he was engaged in the laborious task of exhaustively examining the extensive work of Pliny in order to assemble and organize any and all remarks there concerning art works of antiquity.

My own anxious situation and disorganized life had hitherto quite disrupted me, and I now needed the time and leisure this sojourn granted me — now that my immediate future, albeit in only a modest fashion, had taken a specific turn — to acquaint myself with the most recent literature in my field and to organize my own ideas.

My gracious host and I saw each other but for half an hour at breakfast at 11:00, then for a couple of hours at lunch, from 5:00 on. The entire rest of the day we spent in seclusion in our rooms, and if no guests from Lübeck came to call, my tea was brought to me in my room according to my wish. This solitude was extraordinarily salutary for me; I felt strengthened by it, the serious study restored to my spirit its original elasticity and with it also my confidence in life, through which the recent inner struggles with fate began to recede.

Apart from the art studies Rumohr pursued with such considerable enthusiasm — studies through which, along with his extended stay in Italy, his precise acquaintance with the art treasures there, his talent for sharp and sure comprehension in such matters, and his practical understanding of art he became an authority of enduring importance for art history and acknowledged in all of Europe — that is, apart from these studies, he was at this time also already engaged in studying the art of cooking.

(“A Gourmet’s Library,” Almanach für Leckermäuler oder Küchen- und Tafelkalender [1804]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:)


A man, of course, can pursue such study, and be such study ever so important, only with an element of jest, and it is well known how masterfully and with what wit Rumohr was able to maintain that tone in his famous book on the art of cooking. [4]

It is indeed remarkable how little scientific study in this direction has actually been published. Physicians should have a look at this book, since nourishment does indeed constitute one of the primary cornerstones of all health; and the more the entire art of cooking focuses on the piquant enjoyment of the moment — the way poesy can focus on the momentary effect — all the more should physicians conscientiously and attentively pursue and eradicate these ruinous excesses. To that end, it would be necessary to inspect the chemical laboratories of kitchens as rigorously as one inspects the apothecaries.

The latter, once immersed and incorporated into medical systems, hardly have any real scientific significance if separated and isolated from kitchens. Chemistry, after all, is hardly even familiar with the procedures of cooking and roasting. As an aside, one might point out that the difficulty in attaining any breakthrough here resides in the prejudices and resulting tenacious opposition of women.

It is indeed to Herr von Rumohr that we owe gratitude for having emphasized the principle of the simple art of cooking, through which the pure uniqueness of the various foodstuffs becomes such a pleasant experience for the natural palate and much more acceptable to the unspoiled stomach. And it is in this respect that his cuisine is justifiably referred to as the primal cuisine in contrast to the cuisine of braising.

I myself was anything but indifferent to the delights of the table; indeed, I enjoyed certain dishes with the same delight I experienced during a good conversation, and I doubtless thought I knew not a little about this field. And yet in the eye of my intelligent friend, I could not but appear as a complete heretic, since precisely that which he most reproached — and justifiably so — had become second nature to me. All my friends are familiar with how habitual my enjoyment of the hottest spices has become, and those who witness for the first time the quantities of cayenne pepper I am able to enjoy are generally stupefied. It was an irony of chance that prompted one of my friends, the famous botanist [Karl Sigismund] Kunth [1788–1850], who was in fact not familiar with my sinful inclination in this regard, to name a new genus of pepper after me. [5]

Given our respective studies, there could be no dearth of instructive conversation for us during the few hours we spent together. Most of what I learned from my cordial host was both new and interesting for me, for his youthful sensibility, having been set in motion by both art and poesy, was also quite receptive to other disciplines as well.

The men in Lübeck with whom we otherwise lived were also quite welcome and interesting company for me. Blücher had defended himself courageously in the town [Blücher had fought a series of battles against the French in Lübeck, which, however, ended in his being forced to surrender at Ratekau on 7 November1806; see the supplementary appendix on the flight of Generals Blücher and Hohenlohe, autumn 1806]. In that unfortunate war, which witnessed so many defeats, he earned the greatest renown and prompted great expectations for the future.

The town suffered much during this harsh battle; citizens had been slain, and the town looted, and Bernadotte, who fought against Blücher, was able to stem the abominations associated with the siege only quite late. The inhabitants still vividly recalled the horrors of that period. Hatred of the intruding enemy was quite vigorous, and the friends who gathered around Herr von Rumohr made an alliance against the French, albeit one that at the time could of necessity only be an empty and unsuccessful one, nothing but asseverations and commitments for a time and for measures that were as yet quite indefinite and could not be otherwise. We were now to spread this alliance in every direction, strengthen the German sensibility, and, whenever a prudent deed was possible, vigorously to support the opportunity.

I recall how one member of this alliance suggested introducing the signs of the Freemasons as a sign of recognition among members. My opposition to this proposal prompted the first rather vehement quarrel among us, and I mention this situation because it was the first expression of a polemic against the Freemasons that would later emerge more forcefully. I managed to win over the other members with one simple remark; to wit, I pointed out how the secret French police without a doubt already had spies among the Freemasons, whereby they obviously also had the means to win the confidence of imprudent members of the alliance.

The members of this alliance included several men who had distinguished themselves and otherwise acquired important reputations. From a religious perspective, [Reformed theologian Johannes] Geibel [1776–1853] made a considerable impression on me through the profound loyalty of his disposition and through his sermons, which were all the more excellent as a reflection of his unique personality. I had hitherto not become acquainted, among those whom I knew who had enjoyed a contemporary education, with the enormous power exercised by such unshakeable security of faith; I have since that time maintained an inestimable appreciation for this man notwithstanding that our religious views did not always coincide. [Theologian, pedagogue, philosopher David Theodor August] Suabedissen [1773–1835], who died later in Marburg as a professor philosophy, was at the time a teacher and, if I remember correctly, director at the Gymnasium. He was a rather slightly built, reflective, extremely modest man with a soft voice. We became better acquainted, I grew quite fond of him, and yet it was even more difficult for me to come to an agreement with him on things than with Geibel.

A Frenchman who at the time had a considerable reputation, Villers, did not actually belong to our alliance but was not unacquainted with our views. During the fierce battles in the town, he had demonstrated considerable courage, prudence, and skill in helping rescue the inhabitants; he was well respected in Lübeck and was quite well liked by the inhabitants. His handsome figure was imposing, his confident candor quite attractive, and his education, both French and thoroughly German, could not but gain the appreciation of German scholars. It is well known how he, like Madame de Staël, wanted to introduce the unique merits of German literature to the French. Although he acquired a significant reputation in this respect in both France and Germany, he never really accomplished this task, for empty prattle in several French journals could not have any truly enduring effect in this regard. I enjoyed conversing with Villers and found it easy to gain his trust. I know few men who have such a pleasant facility in social interaction as he through his serious inner striving as well as through an early historical education and indeed also through his personality.

In this context, however, I became acquainted in an extremely depressing fashion with one of the weaknesses of German scholars, one that fairly unnerved me. He had in his possession letters from the most meritorious scholars, often written in a tone by no means worthy of their reputations. They were, it seems, begging in a rather humiliating fashion to acquire some renown or acknowledgement in France. —

I also became acquainted with Schlözer’s daughter, Madam von Rodde. [6] It is well known what a bizarre early education she had received. She enjoyed scholarly instruction, attended her father’s lectures, and received her doctorate from the philosophical faculty. I had known of yet another woman doctor (a proper female doctor) since my early childhood, a certain Erxleben, who received her doctorate in medicine in the middle of the previous [i.e., eighteenth] century in Marburg. It is remarkable, however, how one’s better nature is able to undo all such foolish attempts. Madam von Rodde had forgotten all her earlier erudition and now appeared as a highly charming, thoroughly natural, and still quite beautiful woman, and I still recall with pleasure the hours I spent in her company, in part at her own residence and in part at the residence of Herr von Rumohr.

Thus had I quite unexpectedly made a number of acquaintances that were both important and instructive. One distinguishing characteristic of Germany is that so many mid-sized towns constitute intellectual centers, an advantage we owe to the fact that we have no capital that simply devours everything, as do London and Paris.

I eventually brought my family to Lübeck. They lingered a couple of weeks with the extremely charming and intellectually gifted, unmarried sister of Herr von Rumohr, [7] and we then departed Lübeck in the spring of 1808, [8] arriving in Halle, where — accompanied by anxious premonitions — with my unshakable political opinion I had to submit to the despised power of a foreign ruler.

By virtue of what for someone in my situation was a not insignificant sum that Rumohr, with extreme and gentle tact, had generously given me, I was able to embark on this next period of my life without concern.


[*] Was ich erlebte 5:365–77.

Henrik Steffens had been a professor in Halle since September 1804; after the Prussian defeat at Jena and Auerstedt in October 1806 (Steffens listened to the cannon thunder with his ear on the ground along the road to Merseburg), Napoleon suspended the university in Halle (see supplementary appendix 417j.1). Steffens requested a temporary leave of absence from the Prussian ministry and spent the next two years essentially as an émigré in Holstein (which at the time belonged to Denmark), Hamburg, and Lübeck, in the latter of which he stayed with his friend Rumohr, before returning to Halle in 1808 (which in the interim had become “Royal Westfalian” as a result of the Treaty of Tilsit) to recommence his academic career, albeit under far more modest circumstances than before (“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]):


At the time, as is not surprising given his following account, he also participated in anti-Napoleon activities and was even in some danger with the French police apparatus. Such activities, however, came to nothing, and he eventually moved to Breslau in 1811. The following passages from his memoirs describes his time as an émigré at Rumohr’s estate Krempelsdorf just outside Lübeck, to which Rumohr is referring in this letter to Caroline in early 1808 (letter 427). Back.

[1] Steffens’s memory is faulty; Johann Friedrich Overbeck did not move to Rome until 1810. Concerning Rumohr’s stay in Rome (and problems there with the Riepenhausen brothers), see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 10 July 1807 (letter 423), also with note 18 there; also Caroline’s extensive account of her and Schelling’s friendship with Rumohr in her letter to Pauline Gotter on 24 August 1807 (letter 425), also with note 10 there. Back.

[2] Concerning Rumohr’s recent inheritance, see his letter to Ludwig Tieck on 26 September 1807 (letter 425b), note 2. Back.

[3] Krempelsdorf, just a few kilometers northwest of Lübeck (H. Lenz, Landeskunde der freien und Hansestadt Lübeck und ihres Gebietes [Breslau 1890], map following p. 23):



[4] Carl Friedrich von Rumohr, Geist der Kochkunst: von Joseph König. Ueberarbeitet und herausgegeben von C. F. von Rumohr (Stuttgart, Tübingen, Hamburg 1822). The name of Rumohr’s cook at the time, “Joseph König,” was used as a pseudonym for the allegedly fictitious author. The book is still in print. Back.

[5] Kunth in fact applied the attribute Steffensia to several peppers and pepper oils. Back.

[6] Dorothea von Schlözer had been one of the “university mamsellen” (mademoiselles) during Caroline’s youth. See Caroline’s early correspondence from her Göttingen years. Back.

[7] Uncertain identity; Rumohr had two unmarried sisters, but Steffens does not specify to which he is referring: Friederike Ulrike (Fritze) (1773–1837), or Christine Catharine Ernestine (Kitty) (1780–1830), both participated in administering the family’s estates, whereby Friederike seems to have lived with Rumohr himself when he was in the area. Back.

[8] According to Rumohr’s letter to Caroline on 7 March 1808 (letter 430), Steffens had left that morning. Rumohr himself was planning to leave approximately a week later. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott