Supplementary Appendix 431.1

Friedrich Jacobs’s uneasiness in Munich and homesickness for Gotha
(November 1807) [*]

Gotha ca. 1850


Friedrich Jacobs to Friedrich Kries in Gotha: Munich, 11 November 1807

Munich, 11 November 1807

For a full week now, I have been sitting humbled and depressed in the midst of this magnificent royal city. [1] The entire, zany town is bustling all round about me, with everyone running after one thing or another: some after favor, others after fame, but most simply after entertainment and distraction. In the meantime, my own thoughts have turned back toward my friends and my hometown I left behind [2]

I myself do not quite know why; and toward those for whom I myself now so yearn, since I know only too well that they are wholly and completely irreplaceable. Were I here but as a traveler or visitor who might spend some time admiring the town’s treasures, wander about a bit, and perhaps visit some of its renowned men, the days and weeks spent in such leisure would prompt no regret. But when in the midst of all this hectic to-and-fro I occasionally remind myself in no uncertain terms that I must indeed remain here because I have closed off any return — then occasionally a kind of numbness comes over me quite similar to that prompted by paralyzing fear.

I occasionally feel as if I am standing on a dung pile and am in danger of taking root in the alien soil. And then I fall into such a stuporous state that my heart constricts. Although I am occasionally quite serene and cheerful at this or that social gathering, such overstimulation quickly dissipates as soon as the company itself disperses, and I then sink into an oppressive languor of the sort I have not known for many, many years. And then I return home, in sadness, plague myself during the night with irksome and tedious thoughts, get up in the morning to go about idly only to end such idleness with new vexation.

This, my dear friend, is a short but faithful outline of my recently commenced life here in Munich, one I sketch out for you here in somewhat duskier colors because I have no brighter ones at hand. Gotha lies before me in all its salutary amiability; my relatives, my friends in and around the town, my quiet study, the dear Gymnasium, my colleagues, the myriad conveniences I left behind, my cheerful disposition, and everything else one cannot so easily forget and, once cast to the winds, cannot so easily retrieve.

But all that is now past, and I can but resolve to make my way through the thorns and thistles that might well be blocking this new path. Your countryman Sömmerring was among the first whom I visited. [3] Although he received me quite graciously, of course, as someone whom you commended, nonetheless my conversation with him was not of a sort that might lighten an otherwise anxious and uneasy heart. He is dissatisfied with everything to the point of injustice, and criticizes everything as if nothing, really absolutely nothing had yet happened. His manner of expression, moreover, is so disjointed, so oracular, so intentionally obscure that one presumes much worse to be the case than what he actually says. And then one’s impulse is to get away as quickly as possible and put an end to one’s vexation amid the waves of the stormy Isar River.

On the subject of the Isar: This river more or less reflects the condition of the state of Bavaria itself just now. Murky and green, divided into myriad branches enclosed by desolate sand banks, it rages unsteadily and, in its indefinite course, causes damage without compensating its foolishness by being useful in any significant way. [4]

Jacobi’s house would be a pleasant enough gathering place for the Munich elite were there less prattle there about all the quarrels in which essentially every businessman in this chaotic country is entangled. More than once have I departed his house in a most ill humor for precisely this reason. Jacobi himself is quite charming, and his sisters are lively, well-informed, talkative girls who are anything but boring. —

I do not yet have any official duties here. Although I have been living here in my house since 7 November, it is furnished only with the barest of necessities. This condition of a thousand-and-one privations of the sort one does not even consider at home has been prolonged by the sickliness of my wife, who though no longer confined to her bed nonetheless still does not leave the house, and who has thus not yet seen more of Munich than what one sees from our windows. It is only since yesterday that I have had any ink here. What a gift. For I can much more easily do without coffee, wine, or indeed even water than ink. I was truly unhappy until this blessed moment.

My precious friend, please give my kind regards to your dear wife, your in-laws, the good Hofs, [5] my valued colleagues, and whoever else might still think of me. Whenever you gather together in your circle, please take a moment to remember its departed members. I think often and long about those happy days du bon tems. [6] I have forgotten not a single gentleman or lady among my friends; quite to the contrary, they stand, as is customary for the saints in these parts, on the altars of my heart, surrounded by a halo of love and consecrated candles. One loves truly but once, is young but once, and is truly happy but once. When the time of blossoming has passed, the plant withers. And yet I gather the faded leaves of my happiness and delight in their undying fragrance.

Stay very well. I will not ask that you remain fond of me, since I am confident you will do so. — Unchangeably yours,


Ritter has gone to Stuttgart and Tübingen with Campetti. His experiments there have been quite well received. He is triumphant. That said, here such faith does not seem to have been everywhere forthcoming. [7]

Please deliver a thousand cordial greetings to Döring and Kaltwasser, both of whom I will write very soon. How is Sparr doing with his personal matters? Has anything been done about filling the position at the school? [8] If you see Löffler, please give him my warm regards.


[*] Source: German text and transcription courtesy of Pastor Rudolf W. L. Jacobs, Archiv der schleswig-thüringischen Familie Jacobs. Original manuscript in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München: Jacobsiana II. 1. — Friedrich Kries and Friedrich Jacobs had been colleagues at the Gymnasium in Gotha.

Illustration of Gotha ca. 1850 from Wolfgang Schwarze, Romantische Reise durch den historischen Deutschen Osten (Bindlach, 1989).

Caroline speaks on several occasions about how dissatisfied and uneasy Friedrich Jacobs was even quite early after his arrival in Munich (see, e.g., her letters to Luise Gotter on 9 March 1808 [letter 431] and on 6 June 1808 [letter 433], and to Pauline Gotter on 16 September 1808 [letter 435). This letter eloquently testifies to Jacobs’s sincere acknowledgement of his homesickness and regret at his decision to leave Gotha, and to his determination at least to try to make the best of his situation. Although his personal situation and social contacts improved during his stay in Munich, endemic opposition and intrigues from entrenched interests made life difficult. An offer from Emil Leopold August, the Duke of Saxony, Gotha, and Altenburg, enabled Jacobs to return to Gotha in December 1810. Back.

[1] At least in 1809, the Jacobs resided at Prangersgasse (Pranners Gasse) 216, here, top left, in relation to Max Joseph Square (Akademisches Taschenbuch für die Mitglieder der Königl. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München auf das Jahr 1809 [Munich 1809], 140; map: Königlich Baiersche Haupt und Residenzstadt München am 1. Januar 1809 [Munich 1809]; Bayerisches Landesvermessungsamt München, Nr. 558/03):



[2] I.e., Gotha, which is located ca. 375 km from Munich (Thomas Kitchin, Germany [n.p., n.d.]):



[3] Both Kries and Sömmering were natives of Thorn in Western Prussia, just south of Danzig (Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]):



[4] The Isar River runs by Munich; here its approximate course in 1814 (Joseph Anton Eisenmann, Beschreibung der Haupt- und Residenzstadt München und ihrer Umgebungen in topographischer, geschichtlicher und statistischer Hinseicht, 2nd ed. [Munich 1814], final plate):



[5] Presumably Carl Ernst Adolph von Hoff and his sister, Friederike. Back.

[6] Fr., “of (the) good times.” Back.

[7] Jacobs’s remarks here are certainly accurate, since not least the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities was troubled by the lack of controlled conditions in Ritter’s experiments. Concerning the episode involving the alleged dowser Francesco Campetti, see the supplementary appendix on Caroline and Schelling’s interest in Francesco Campetti; also Schelling’s letter to Hegel on 11 January 1807 (letter 420a) and Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 31 January 1807 (letter 421). Back.

[8] Johann Gottfried Sparr left the Gymnasium in Gotha in 1807 to take a position in Nordhausen in 1808, much as Friedrich Jacobs had done in 1807 in moving to Munich. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott