|408| It was at the age of nineteen that August Wilhelm Schlegel set out, in 1786, for the University of Göttingen, there to remain for a period of five years. This sojourn was destined to exercise a decisive influence over his after life, and, indeed, the whole tenour of his mind. Here it was that he finished, fortified, and gave depth to his classical studies under the guidance of Heyne, whom F. A. Wolf had not yet eclipsed, and laid in that stock of solid learning which enabled him later, like Lessing, to devote himself professionally to criticism, without ever subsiding into that superficial dilettantism which is the usual stumbling-block of the professional critic. Here it was that his friendship with Bürger was formed, and that his first attempts at versification were encouraged by the author of Lenore, who opened out a fresh horizon to him, and admitted the as yet obscure juvenile writer to a place in his Musenalmanach, the oldest and best among those literary selections, published in Germany, which preceded Schiller’s Horae [Die Horen]. Here it was also, by daily intercourse with the young foreign noblemen who flocked to the renowned Georgia Augusta [university], that he acquired that polish which high society alone can impart; that agreeable exterior, that familiarity with living languages, which served to distinguish him in after life from among the herd of uncouth and unkempt savants and literati, who were his contemporaries in Germany. But the chief event, and that which was to leave the most durable traces — traces alike painful and fertile — was his meeting with a young widow of twenty-six, whose destiny it was to exercise a powerful influence over the three most remarkable men belonging to the romantic school. Those who had especially occupied themselves with the study of German literature and its history knew of Caroline Michaelis, indeed, as a handsome, engaging woman — like Helen — “greatly admired and greatly censured.” They had often come across malevolent allusions, more or less founded, concerning her conduct; and were fully aware of the important share she had had in A. W. Schlegel’s literary labours. The full-length |409| portrait drawn of her by Friedrich Schlegel in his Lucinde was as well known as the enthusiastic admiration with which she had inspired her third husband, the thinker of the romantic school, Schelling.  What, however, had hardly been suspected before the appearance of the recent works of Georg Waitz [(1871)] and Rudolf Haym [Die romantische Schule] was the amount of individuality and originality which distinguished this amiable and fascinating woman.
While far from having so numerous or illustrious an array of female talent and learning, beauty and grace, to exhibit as France or Italy, Germany was still not wanting in romantic or eminent women, especially towards the close of the past century. But none, excepting perhaps Rahel, had the freshness and indescribable originality displayed to us in Caroline’s letters. When we hear Wilhelm von Humboldt speak of her as of a superior mind; when Gries says of her that she was the cleverest woman he ever knew; when Steffens alludes to her as a woman of superior intellect, these expressions may be taken for banalities of no rare occurrence in the high-flown style of the letters of that enthusiastic period. When Friedrich Schlegel recognises in her a certain grandeur, A. W. Schlegel himself tells us that this “highly-gifted woman had all the necessary qualifications to shine as an authoress without the ambition,” and Schelling pronounces her to be “a rare and most singular being, which it was impossible to love half,” and, again, “a masterpiece of intellect, an extraordinary woman with a masculine mind, uniting the most penetrating wit with the softest, tenderest, most affectionate womanly heart,” we are, of course, at liberty to attribute these warm tributes of praise to the natural exaggeration of a blind lover or equally blind friends. On perusing the two volumes before us, however, in which letters may be found worthy of George Sand in passionate effusion, and others of more familiar gossiping interest, of which, it is no exaggeration to say, Madame de Sevigne herself would hardly have repudiated the authorship; when we see how lasting was the attachment with which she inspired all who knew her well; when we observe the envy of the women and the admiration of men who only knew her from a distance; when we witness the irresistible power of fascination she exercised over all around her, and discover the spontaneous freshness of childhood in her style as |410| in her thoughts, the naiveté of her feelings and impressions; when throughout the course of her life, in her errors, her animosities and the, alas! too passionate loves of her youth, in those faults of character even to which she herself pleads guilty, we constantly find her perfectly genuine, true to herself, and thoroughly disinterested; then, indeed, is our sympathy awakened in a higher degree than our curiosity, and we feel a desire to know more about her personally, about the vicissitudes of so restless and troubled an existence, and about the joys, the woes, and even errings of a strange being, born, according to her own words, “for the narrow limits of a peaceful household, yet forced out of her proper sphere by an uncontrollable destiny, without ever losing sight of its virtues, or ever becoming a mere adventuress.”
Caroline Michaelis was born at Göttingen in the year 1763. Her father, the celebrated Orientalist [Johann David Michaelis], seems to have taken but little notice of his numerous progeny, and evidently to have consigned them to a lower place in his affections than the folios of his library. The family circle in which she grew up contained little or nothing that was beneficial or salutary. What with constant pecuniary embarrassment, petty misunderstandings, and general incompatibility of temper, combined with a certain want of respect and lack of cohesive power among its elements, this household, like those of so many literati, was indeed little calculated to prepare her satisfactorily for the trials and duties of after life. “Our family is ruined,” she says, “by the corruption, folly, weakness, and violence of its several members. One sends prayers to heaven, while another accuses Fate; but the real cause of the evil does not lie beyond the clouds.” Her brothers soon dispersed, and Caroline always thought her mother neglected her in favour of her sisters, without however bearing either party any malice on that score. As is not uncommon with girls of an ardent, enthusiastic temperament, she centred her affections entirely upon her brother Philip [editor, correct: Fritz], whom she loved with passionate tenderness. She was besides warmly attached to her sister Charlotte, on whose premature decease she transferred her affections to another of her sisters [Luise], to whom she remained true in spite of time and separation. It is easy to perceive that she felt deeply the want of family ties during her whole life, by a letter written to a female friend of forty years’ standing, shortly before her own end, on receiving the tidings of her aged mother’s death. On seeing “this last link of the past severed, as those of the future had previously been,” the painful recollection of her lost children “rises up before her from its light slumber,” and she feels acutely “the rupture of this last remaining tie which bound her to mother-earth” [letter 431].
|411| She could hardly expect either to find without the precincts of her own family circle that moral stay, that something to lean upon which she missed at home. Göttingen had very little in common with other German towns of similar dimensions. A village which Count Münchhausen, the Hanoverian Pombal — for every Continental State in the eighteenth century had its “enlightened philosophical minister” — had turned into a focus of the theological and philosophical rationalism peculiar to that age, where sons of high German families recently won over to the “rising ideas,” young English lords, and even princes of the royal blood, anxious to visit their sovereign’s native country, all assembled; where all pitched their tents — but none took permanent root; a town of this description, we repeat, would hardly be expected to form a sound school for exemplary housewives. “Young girls here,” writes Boie, Bürger’s friend, “are obliged to live a retired life and be very careful on account of the number of young men who lay snares for them.” If unwilling either to submit to seclusion or give way to seduction, they ran imminent risk of turning blue-stockings like Gatterer’s daughter, who became an authoress, and Dorothea Schlözer, who went up for her doctor’s diploma and got it. Those who wished to improve themselves by reading, but were at the same time anxious to resemble the heroines of the novels they devoured, were exposed to censure and even calumny on the part of their more prudent, but less attractive companions. The latter was the lot of the handsome daughters of Heyne and Michaelis.
Caroline more laid herself open to slander even than her friend Theresa, the great philologist’s daughter; for when at the age of twenty-one she married the physician Böhmer, of Clausthal, she had already had several flirtations, one among the rest with the famous Blumenbach. She had even projected a conventional matrimonial alliance, but subsequently relinquished the idea. It was not love either which ultimately induced her to accept Böhmer; it was friendship, esteem, and perhaps a desire to relieve her parents from a care, and to acquire for herself independence and an establishment. The narrative of her marriage resembles some chapter out of the Vicar of Wakefield, with all the sentimental and virtuous paraphernalia of which the past century, especially towards its close, was so fond.  Still a long letter addressed to her sister Charlotte three or four months after, shows already a strange amount of experience in affairs of the heart. She warns her little sister especially against the power of imagination and a craving after affection, against ennui and affectation, as being calculated to mislead her concerning the nature of her |412| feelings. She hints “that our own sanctity may at times deceive us.”
“When the Hm’s Hm’s (the dandy students) pass under your eyes, do you really do absolutely nothing for vanity’s sake? It would be impossible for you entirely to annihilate its movements, for this is the most involuntary of all original sins, and one we need as little be ashamed of as corns or toothache. Only we ought never to move a step either backwards or forwards towards encouraging the failing. You cannot help its being pleasant to you if your veiled cap suits you, but beware how you set it more at one person than at another.”
Here we certainly have most prudent advice addressed to a young affianced bride, and such as might lead us to infer that she who imparts it, when similarly situated had herself been anything but indifferent to the effect her own veiled cap may have produced on the Göttingen students. Nevertheless, four years of perfect seclusion in the mountain retirement of Clausthal passed over without a murmur on her part. Her time was completely filled up between the care of her three children, her real affection for her husband, a diligent and numerous correspondence, and a good deal of serious reading. In time she not only became used to the rugged landscape of the Hartz, but even got to like it. True, her letters occasionally reflect the petty annoyances and humdrum sameness of a small country town; still, on the whole they are mostly bright, cheerful, and replete with impressions she receives from the books she happens to be reading. The narrow limits and almost rustic simplicity of a household life, which constantly obliged her to lay hand to the saucepan and the gridiron, her unaffected piety, which no Göttingen University Rationalism had ever succeeded in destroying, did not prevent her from taking the liveliest interest from the depths of her mountain retreat in all questions which at that time engrossed general attention in Germany and elsewhere. In spite of an innate horror of blue-stockingism, she courageously set to work to study Winckelmann’s History of Art, Herder’s theological writings, Jacobi’s work on Spinoza, and what not more. Neither did a single French or English novel of any importance escape her notice; so that on returning to her parents’ house at her husband’s decease, she by no means cut a provincial figure. The first burst of grief over, she appears, in spite of herself, to have experienced a sensation of relief at once more regaining her freedom.
|413| “I do not trouble myself concerning the future,” she writes to her friend Meyer. “I make no plans whatever, and create no imaginary cares for myself. One aim alone do I consider myself obliged to pursue with an unfaltering step—that of my daughters’ welfare. All the rest lies stretched out before me like the vast expanse of the troubled ocean. If at times I find myself beginning to turn giddy at this spectacle, and feel my head whirl, I just close my eyes, and still trust myself on it without fear. I do not know whether I shall ever be quite happy, but I know that I can never be utterly miserable. You have known me in circumstances in which, hedged in as it were on all sides, I was crushed by my own weight; I have been torn away from it, cruelly torn, still I feel it, for all around me seems as glaring with light as though I were entering existence for the first time, like some invalid restored to life slowly regaining his strength, and inhaling anew the pure, balmy spring air.”
It was in a frame of mind such as this that August Wilhelm Schlegel first met and fell desperately in love with her. The flame was only fanned by her behaviour towards him — now snubbing him, now treating him as she would a child, now giving him all sorts of excellent advice, even concerning literary matters; at other times, almost in spite of herself, and obeying a natural impulse and desire to please, flattering the youthful poet, than whom perhaps no individual was ever more accessible to flattery. She also renewed her friendship with Bürger, who was very unhappy at that time, in consequence of his marriage—the third he had contracted — with the Suabian Maiden (Schwaben-Mädchen), who had offered him her hand and her heart from afar, and who on closer inspection turned out to be a complete hussy. “A graceful little creature, with a pretty face and a facility for small-talk, who can even be sentimental if necessary, and with a genius for intrigue, and an unlimited propensity for flirtation, less anxious to have lovers — although even in this she goes about as far as it is possible to go — than to surround herself with a swarm of insignificant admirers.” It is not difficult to understand why Caroline did what she could to remove her sisters, at that time still young, from a circle of this kind. As for the poet himself, who twenty years previously — when he sang Lenore, and his life and his genius were alike inspired by a guilty but sincere passion,  had proudly named himself the “Condor of ballad writers” — he had become “quite stupid” by the side of this giddy Suabian. He “preserves a dogged silence, stares fixedly before him with his heavy eyes The other day he complained bitterly that he had no wit left.” Still Caroline would have been disposed to overlook some of Madame Bürger’s shortcomings, had she shown less desire to ensnare men of understanding; “for,” she adds, “it is clear that I do not judge her so severely from intolerance. My cloak of charity covereth all things, provided a warm heart and a sense of the beautiful be there.” Here we have the naive morality |414| of the eighteenth century, set forth with the greatest possible naiveté of expression by a young widow of twenty-eight, who, moreover, conducts herself with propriety. And these remarks are addressed to an agreeable and clever young man. Already before her return to Gottingen, Caroline had become acquainted with F. L. W. Meyer, the friend of her friends the Heynes, and possibly even more intimate with Theresa than was exactly agreeable to her husband. Theresa, “destined to no common lot,” had married Georg Forster, the celebrated traveller, and future apostle of the French Revolution, whom she subsequently accompanied to Wilna. This young woman, inferior neither in beauty, intelligence, nor knowledge to Caroline, superior even in energy of will, did not, however, possess those qualities of feminine grace and sincerity which rendered her friend so attractive, and thereby caused people more readily to forgive her superiority and her failings. She kept up a lively correspondence with Meyer, who appears to have possessed unusual attraction for the female sex. This singular individual, who, by his learning, his intellect, and his talents, seemed to have been originally intended for some great literary career, like many others at that time, chose to withdraw from the busy world at an early age, secluding himself in a rustic hermitage, where for many years he lived the life of an anchorite.  Meyer became Caroline’s confidant; and, indeed, by far the greater part of the letters written by her during six years’ wanderings after Böhmer’s death was addressed to him. It is necessary to read these elaborate effusions in order to have an idea of the depth and psychological subtlety of that strange time. The minute analysis of feelings, the self-contemplation, the studies of shades of sentiment and of moral fibres, the vivisection of the inner world, are no longer wearisome when entered into by a nature so unaffected and so fresh as Caroline’s. They are the outward expression of an inner life, which forms a singular contrast with the nervous, feverish excitement of our own generation and our purely external animation. Germany undoubtedly owes Goethe’s Torquato Tasso, Wilhelm Meister, and the Elective Affinities to this habit and craving for psychological analysis. She owes them also, and above all, a freedom from prejudice and convention not to be met with elsewhere; but at the same time some of her greatest defects — a complete want of spontaneousness, an eternal self-preoccupation, the habit of over-reflection, and the love of systems — all of them things which are anachronisms in our time.
Most of these letters are dated from Marburg, where Caroline went in 1789, to reside with one of her brothers, a professor at that university. She no doubt expected to find the horizon somewhat wider there, for in a letter written shortly before leaving Göttingen, |415| she says, alluding to the Duke of Sussex’s expected return from Hyères,:
How I wish I could once, were it only once in my life, breathe in the soft air of so mild a climate, walk under the shedding orange blossoms, see a bright people, and witness more ardent passions than our temperate zone brings forth. Alas! my wishes are vain! Still, my life with my brother opens out a wider prospect; I shall be nearer to the Rhine. But how sad it is to think that one has never seen anything really beautiful!
Her expectations do not seem to have been fulfilled at Marburg. The narrowness of its resources, some little misunderstandings with her brother, who seems to have been less devoted to her than Philip, the loss of one of her daughters — her little boy had died at Clausthal — all this combined to render her stay there painful to her. Her letters to Meyer touch lightly upon facts and names, excepting as regards Theresa, whom she characterises with that happy facility of expression so seldom, if ever, attained by professional authors; still they show a discontented frame of mind, while they indicate a large intellect, regarding things from an exceedingly lofty point of view. Before finally betaking himself to his northern hermitage, Meyer passed a long time in wandering through one country after another, unable to settle in any; and these letters, therefore, reach him now in Rome, now in London, now again in the immediate neighbourhood of Marburg, whither a fit of caprice leads him suddenly, as it does elsewhere. We unfortunately have none of his letters, but it is easy to judge of the singularity of the individual, and the intimacy of the friendship subsisting between them, from those of Caroline. Nor must it be thought that this sentiment sufficed to fill her whole soul; on the contrary, she found room in it and felt the want of one far less tranquil. We are able to gather very little information respecting Tatter, who apparently reigned supremely over her heart for more than three years, in spite of constant separation.  She knew him at Göttingen in 1789, at the same time as A. W. Schlegel, for he had come there to accompany his pupil, Prince Augustus of England. She had been powerfully struck by the sureness, tact, noble pride, and dignified energy displayed by him in his difficult and delicate position. Among a host of languishing Werthers, vain beaux-esprits, clumsy and irritable savants, who viewed the world from behind their folios, and geniuses who sought their distinction in ponderous eccentricity, she here discovered at last an active, firm, dignified man, uniting the keen, open eye of a statesman to the delicate perception of the dilettante, who himself domineers over others instead of allowing himself to be domineered over. He so entirely fascinated her, that she refused all the offers made to her which might have freed her from her precarious situation. On |416| quitting Marburg, after a stay of two years, she first proceeded to Gotha, to visit the oldest and truest among all her female friends, Louisa Gotter, whose husband at that time enjoyed, and indeed still enjoys, a certain reputation as a poet and writer of libretti in Germany. The irresistible young widow here made a deep impression upon the heart of the Superintendant-General, or, as the English would say, Bishop of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who actually proposed to her. “I meet with love where I do not seek it,” she naively says; “if I chose to give encouragement, I might be adored.” However, she is no more able to make up her mind to this conventional alliance than she had been ten years before, when sought in marriage by another man of good position.
“True, my dear Meyer,” she writes to her confidant regarding this business, “the ungodly little woman, the young flirt — for these are the remarks people make on me, do they not? — had attracted the — you know whom — and I hesitated. The whole web of life seemed to cross its threads within my head: this or that? For three days I was utterly puzzled. At last all melted down into the question — Art thou disposed to bind thyself for thy lifetime, and live surrounded by comfort and the world’s regard, or dost thou prefer thy liberty, even at the cost of care and discomfort? Indolent nature inclined towards the former, but the soul’s pure inward flame caught at the latter. I feel where my duty lies, because I know my own capabilities. Let no one think me foolish. I have reflected well; I am fully aware of the value of a position which fits into the regular course of things. Still I have never been dazzled by it to the extent of mistaking where the true value of life lies. Whoever is sure of never repenting the consequences of his deeds has a right to do what he likes. I might undoubtedly have made myself useful to the State had I chosen to take upon myself the cares of a household, and brought up half-a-dozen children more as I do my dear daughter; but that can be done equally well without me, and without destroying anybody’s happiness. Therefore it is better as it is, for God’s State.”
This she wrote from Göttingen, where she had once more returned from Gotha, and where his Grace had pursued her with his addresses. In this town a former unwelcome, tiresome suitor again crosses her path, as yet unsettled and unfettered, whom she harshly repulses with raillery, being wont thus to receive those who solicited an affection reserved for such as did not run after it. Her passion for Tatter was clearly the reason why she rejected the proposals of the Bishop of Gotha, as well as of the haughtiness and raillery with which A. W. Schlegel’s protestations were met. “I am,” she writes to her sister Charlotte, “cultivating a laurel for a poet — say this to Schlegel; and I have a charming little bunch of mignonette, a souvenir — say that to Tatter!”
Once more she left the paternal roof; it is difficult to comprehend why, for Tatter apparently was still in Göttingen, or at least in Hanover, close at hand. Besides, if, on the one hand, Schlegel’s love bored her, his mind and tastes were eminently pleasant. She was no longer under the spell of her admiration for Theresa Forster, |417| on whose account, nevertheless, she took up her abode in Mayence.
Are we to accept her own version, as given to Meyer, and admit that it was a sublime impulse of self-sacrifice and a desire to try and restore the disturbed harmony of the Forster manage, which sent her there, and because “undertakings which resemble tasks have a special attraction for her?” Was it not rather impatience to shake off the yoke of dependence under which she groaned in her own family, and a wish to free herself from the petty annoyances to which she was subjected, added to a yearning to quit the narrow sphere of Göttingen and the attraction of the Ultra-Rhine movement, which was just then fermenting like some generous wine in the noble hearts of her countrymen, unsuspicious of the noxious, subtle poison which lurked beneath the surface of that sparkling, deadly beverage?
For who could deny that his heart swelled, And beat with a purer stroke, in a freer breast, When the first ray of that new sun rose? And those men's names who were the first apostles of the good tidings, Did they not equal the loftiest we place among the stars? Did not every one feel his courage, his soul, and his language rise within him ?" 
It was only natural that the new ideas and humanitarian hosts coming from France should have been welcomed with special enthusiasm by the subjects of the three ecclesiastical Electors (of Mayence, Treves, and Cologne), precisely because all the vices resulting from the corrupt state of political Germany had become centred, as it were, in their dominions. Despotism and debauchery, extravagance and want, grovelling weakness towards foreign powers and imperious haughtiness towards the subject, a total absence of all patriotism and dignity — in a word, a climax of rottenness which is hardly possible to such a degree excepting in ecclesiastical States.
Caroline caught at the new ideas more ardently than any one. Already in 1789 she had begun to take Meyer to task for not entering into her admiration of the “sublime French nation'” a reproach which she certainly had no need to address to poor weak Forster, who had eagerly hastened to register himself as a French citizen. Caroline soon saw through this nature prone to rhetoric and weeping; she soon discovered at the bottom of it colossal, inordinate, unlimited vanity, entirely unjustified by that force of character or of genius which leads us to pardon many foibles. “He is the strangest creature,” she says of him; “I never loved, admired, or despised any one so much.” This sentimental rhetorician, who was sincere and even honest, and who was destined to be canonised not only by the German plagiarists of the French Revolution, which would have been excusable to a certain degree on account of the great dearth of men of any eminence in that party, but also by patriots like Gervinus |418| and Hettner — this hero, and at the same time victim of the German imitation, was at the head of the popular agitation at Mayence, and Caroline thus found herself at the fountain-head of the new ideas.
It was a strange spectacle to see this ancient archiepiscopal city of Mayence — this rendezvous of all the abuses, depravity, and faded magnificence of the decayed Holy Roman Empire — suddenly transformed into a nest of Jacobinism, and to witness revolutionary orators hold forth in the clubs established in those antique rococo palaces, where but a short time before little abbés, belonging to the most dissolute ecclesiastical court in the century, had been wont to reign supreme. Caroline had far too much of the woman in her nature to take active part in anything of the kind. All that has been said concerning her connection with “her madcap of a brother-in-law” — one of the principal actors in the Mayence drama — is a pure fiction. The part she took in these events was strictly limited to a lively, almost passionate, interest. “I hurl the Jacobin’s cap back at your head, which you are bent upon placing on mine,” she writes to Meyer, who, far from entering into the current illusions of that time, is fond of bantering his graceful friend for her misplaced enthusiasm. She even boasts of her “noble impartiality,” and vehemently protests against the Jacobins, the 20th of June, and even Lafayette himself for allowing it, without, however, “praying for the success of the Imperial and royal arms,” and “always detesting despotism, though not all aristocrats.” Mirabeau and the moderates had alone succeeded in awakening her entire admiration; yet, on the arrival of the Republicans at Mayence (October, 1792), when “the cockades began to swarm in the streets,” and her own little girl cries out, “Vive la nation,” she was led away, as Forster had been. “What a distance still lies,” she says, “between the degree of learning (sic) and pride of a German burgher and the last among these sans-culottes now encamped before our gates.” Still, she did not continue long dividing her friends’ illusion, for at the bottom politics and the coarse emotions to which they give rise were but little to her taste. “I am dead and deaf to political interest,” she writes to Meyer in January, 1793. “At the outset my heart was fired with enthusiasm, and Forster’s opinion naturally carried mine away with it” — is not this “naturally” deliciously feminine? — “but I never undertook any private or public propaganda whatsoever; nor have I ever during the whole course of my life been more aristocratically reserved in my intercourse with the world than at this democratic period.” In this she either flatters or deceives herself, or else she is forgetful. True, she shut her doors against her madman of a brother-in-law, who came from Worms to Mayence to act as secretary to “Citizen Custine;” but, on the other hand, did she not open them to a “more than suspicious citoyenne whom she |419| hardly knew [Meta Forkel],” and solely because her heart harbours “no hatred against sinners,” because she “feels no anxiety on her own account, and because she likes the woman?” Nay, did she not carry her imprudence still further? In this, as in other passages of her life, now as at other periods, we must bear in mind that it was the heart which influenced the head in this essentially womanly nature; and it is necessary to seek for the clue to her increasing indifference to politics, quite as much in her private feelings as in her aristocratic instincts.
It was the most brilliant among the friends of her youth, her “rival from the cradle,” who had induced her to settle in Mayence; it was that haughty, self-willed Theresa, by whose side she hoped to create an independent position for herself, while exercising a salutary and tranquillising influence over this somewhat disturbed ménage. By the time she arrived there, however, the foundations of peace and harmony had been already completely sapped. Forster, whom Theresa still held in subjection, partly by flattering his vanity, still more by the exercise of that magic which la Galigaï used with so much avail towards Louis XIII. — that of a strong will over a weak one — was still her admirer, and stood in awe of her, playing alternately the part of a capricious tyrant or that of a rebellious slave; he was still in love with her, in a word, and utterly unable to detach himself from her. Nor was it Theresa’s fault if he did not do so, for she certainly did all she could to facilitate matters. Not content with domineering over him with unlimited selfishness, she betrayed his unbounded confidence by keeping up a clandestine intercourse with his friend, the famous Huber — for in this circle we have to do with none but celebrities — with whom she at last eloped, and over whom she already reigned supreme, as she had done over Forster, holding him in utter subjection by her own superiority of intellect and will. It was but natural that Caroline should shrink from the thankless office of opening a deceived friend’s eyes; but on Theresa’s departure for Strasburg with Huber in December, 1792, she remained, at the earnest request of his faithless wife, to watch over Forster with her usual simplicity, good-nature, and thoughtlessness — as a species of “moral nurse.”
“It is possible that a false light may thus have been cast upon me, both in a political and moral point of view. I cared little for it, however, being little accustomed to inquire into the effect my conduct may produce upon others, when I feel myself justified, and without guile in my own eyes. . . .”
And, in truth, slander, of which she had so often been the object, never ventured seriously to discredit her devotion and perseverance in this case, although they were indirectly to become the primary cause of the greatest crisis through which she passed during the whole course of her life. She still entertained a passionate love for Tatter. |420| Either the correspondence which took place between these two lovers has really not been handed down to us, or it was deemed advisable to suppress it; but the letters she writes to Meyer during the year 1792 are quite sufficient to show that her soul is still wrapped up in the remembrance of “that singular man,” Tatter. Still, she had already begun to entertain certain misgivings as to the warmth of his affection for her, and on the tidings that he is about to pass within a trifling distance of the place where she resides, we find her manifesting less impatience to fold him in her arms, than anxiety to ascertain “whether he will really be so unnatural, so inhuman, so unaccountable, as to pass close by Mayence without even coming to see her!” At the bare notion of such a thing happening, she catches herself harbouring “the rebellious project of liberating herself from this dependence,” for, she adds —
It is not the first time that he has put me to torture. How often have I been forced to give way to him against my own convictions. How would it be were they one day to prove stronger than the desire to yield? If the wrong done to me were to become so evident that I could not help condemning him? It is from this that my innermost soul recoils. . . .
This time, however, he did come and spent several days with Caroline at Mayence, on his way to Italy, thereby rendering her extremely happy, according to her own account. Alas! this was but a solitary ray of sunshine, for soon after the city is taken by Custine’s army, and the besieging troops of the Allies approach rapidly, so that when left alone with Forster, owing to Theresa’s flight, she begins to see the necessity of providing for the future, and applies to Tatter for advice, and even protection in case of need; but he answers her from Italy that he regrets he can do nothing to help her. She must have felt, as it were, a cold steel penetrating to her heart:
By a very little more manly courage, by a single decisive word, he might have rescued me—the only man to whom I ever applied for protection has refused it me. . . . He has refused his own happiness. Meanwhile the time was passing when privation is delight. . . . My patience began to be exhausted, my heart regained its freedom, and in this position, without an aim in life, it seemed to me that I could not do better than try to alleviate a friend’s (Forster’s) sufferings and—find diversion for my thoughts.
Here there is an interruption in this correspondence lasting three months — from January to March, 1793 — and, indeed, it is very incomplete until the year 1796. A fact regarded by M. Haym as undoubtedly confirmed by manuscript documents which have passed through his hands, but which we would fain have consigned to the domain of fancy, or looked upon as one of those countless calumnies to which Caroline was continually giving rise by the thoughtlessness of her conduct, ought certainly to find its proper place here. Either |421| in consequence of great mortification at Tatter’s slight, or of weariness produced by the monotony of her existence and a desire for excitement and diversion; either because in an unlucky hour she forgot herself, or yielded to a sudden attack which paralysed resistance by its very suddenness: certain it is that a Frenchman, endowed with the usual enterprising audacity of his countrymen in affairs of gallantry, and who thus formed a striking contrast with her platonic German admirers, succeeded in inducing her to commit the only fault with which she had to reproach herself seriously in her life. She subsequently fell ill, either from agitation or remorse, or both, and could not leave the town. When she recovered, Forster started for Paris to “solicit the incorporation of Mayence and the Rhine Provinces in the French Republic” — the noble-hearted patriot! On the 30th of March she was finally able to quit the besieged town, accompanied by her daughter and Madame Forkel, the somewhat suspicious lady whom she had taken into her family. She intended going to the hospitable house of the Gotters at Gotha, one which in all the difficult junctures of her eventful life never ceased to be open to her. Scarcely had she passed the gates of Mayence, however, when she was arrested. A few days afterwards it was announced in the Paris Moniteur, with characteristic republican delicacy of expression, that “the widow Böhmer, citizen Forster’s friend, had been sent off to the fortress of Königstein.” Her consciousness that she was not his friend in the French sense of the word, was of but little avail to her; for neither friend nor enemy in Germany ever accused her of more than a political connection with the Forsters. She had to submit to a three months’ cruel captivity, rendered harsher still by the presence of her delicate little girl, and by her own condition. It was full two months before she was even interrogated; and in what kind of company, in what an atmosphere did she pass them? On the 14th of June, after eleven weeks of this terrible trial, the day after her transferment to Kronberg, she writes as follows:
“I have spent many days, the horror, agony, and privations of each single one of which would have sufficed to drive a sensitive person mad. My health has suffered a good deal” (she had just been confined to her bed for three weeks), “but really my peace of mind has been so little impaired that I still feel that I can enjoy life even this very day, since I have a room to myself, with chairs in it, and in a place where I no longer see gaolers and sentinels.”
Amid all these trials and privations she literally found nothing whatever to console her. She soon received the tidings of the death of a beloved sister. Tatter’s desertion is still fresh in her mind. When put to the test the friendship of Theresa, Huber, and Forster proved what might have been expected; the selfishness of the two former, as well as the weakness of the latter, became but too apparent |422| in broad daylight. Moreover, her high influential friends in the allied camp, like Wilhelm von Humboldt, though always ready and agreeable in words, never did anything for her when she needed it. It was the Gotters who were constantly writing, petitioning, and soliciting in her behalf; and it was August Wilhelm Schlegel who now hastened from Amsterdam to endeavour to obtain her transferment to Kronberg. Above all, it was her brother, her beloved Philip, who at once hurried home from Italy, and leaving no stone unturned, at last succeeded in obtaining an audience of the Prussian monarch—at that time, burly, sensual Friedrich Wilhelm II. — and in procuring his sister’s release from captivity, to which Albini, the archbishop-elector’s minister, seems to have consented reluctantly enough, and with no very good grace. The king in his order that she should be set at liberty, added some expressions of regret for Caroline, in which was couched an ill-concealed allusion to an abuse of power on the part of the electoral government.
After three months and a half of intense suffering and privations of all sorts, she is at length able to write to her old friends at Gotha, on the 13th of July, from Frankfort: — “My dear friends, — I am free, free thanks to the untiring exertions of my youngest brother.” But liberty in itself was not all she required, for she must know where to direct her steps. In a fit of despair she had said to Meyer, “My life in Germany is at an end.” Schlegel, it is true, was at Frankfort, close by; but he had neither home nor position. Her Gotha friends besought her to pay them a visit, but how could she accept their proffered hospitality at so critical a moment?” My brother desires me to leave at once, this very hour; so I must. I am on no account to stop at Gotha, and yet I am burning with impatience to see you all, if it were only for a moment; for my health, my soul, are both in need of deep silence for their recovery, and in this sense such necessity is agreeable to me.” From all this we may safely infer that M. Haym is but too well justified in asserting what he does, and that she had her reasons [i.e., her pregnancy; editor] for not going to the Gotters just then. As a last resource she appeals to Meyer, by whose answer she is at once deprived of the only refuge she still imagined to be open to her. “I will be as calm as I can; only you must remember that every vulnerable point in a woman’s nature has been attacked in me.” In this frank — at times surly, but, in the main, attached friend — she had hoped to find “every description of aid, secrecy, and a mind capable of occupying hers at a time when it was not safe for her to be alone with her own thoughts; in short, a man on whose honesty and humanity she could safely rely.” She still persists in believing in him, even after a first and somewhat evasive answer: “For as long as her own heart tells her honesty is possible, she is incapable of acquiring the talent of doubting. How |423| is she to suppose that all the world is less good than herself?” Still she was obliged to submit, for on a second application Meyer politely refused. Then it was that, “deserted by every one, unable even to put an end to my existence, I confided in a man, whose addresses I had rejected, whom I had sacrificed and wounded, to whom precisely on account of the nature of my confidence I could offer no species of compensation after having made it, and I was not deceived in him.”
She speaks of August Wilhelm Schlegel. He wrote from Amsterdam, where he was tutor in a wealthy family since 1791, beseeching her not to go to Mayence; and when she ultimately did go there he entreated her to leave it. But she turned his admonitions into ridicule, and answered him with jokes and raillery. At one time he had had some thoughts of joining her there, and his brother and best friend, Friedrich Schlegel, who had formed an exalted opinion of Caroline from her letters and August Wilhelm’s description of her, and who, moreover, had a great liking for romantic undertakings, or as he was pleased to call every fancy of his, “the caprices of genius,” greatly encouraged him to carry out his plan. Even Caroline herself seems to have countenanced it; but his engagements in Holland, perhaps also an affair of the heart with a certain Sophie [apparently Sophie Tischbein; ed.] — for these beings, alike impatient of all control as of all gêne, were apt to give way to the strangest and most contradictory feelings — kept him in Amsterdam, and this, of course, did not fail to bring down upon him fresh raillery on Caroline’s part, by which even his vanity as an author was assailed, that most vulnerable Achilles’ heel in poor Schlegel. Still, nothing could shake his affection for her. He at once hastened to Frankfort at her summons, received the frankest and most complete confession from her lips, and with the gallantry of a cavalier escorted his lady fair, at last moved by his devotion to her, through Germany to Leipzig, where he left her at the house of Goschen, the fortunate editor of the Weimar classics. Having confided her to the care and protection of his brother Friedrich, at that time studying at the Leipzig University, he then went back to Holland. It now became a difficult matter to stand proof against such generosity, and Caroline began to repent her past severity towards August Wilhelm. From a village close to Leipzig, where she had taken up her residence to abide the dénouement of her Mayence adventure, she writes to Friedrich:
You must feel what a friend I have found in Wilhelm. He has amply and spontaneously repaid me with unaffected disinterestedness and more than efficacious aid for anything I may have bestowed on him. That I am thus able to call him mine without being fettered by any blind, irresistible feeling, has quite reconciled me with myself.
Friedrich Schlegel had expected, from what he knew of her beforehand, |424| to find her no ordinary woman; but his expectations were even surpassed. Writing to his brother, he says of her, “She is a noble creature; and you owe her far more than you will ever be able to render her.” And farther on:
Our intercourse has something of familiarity, although without entire confidence; there is a mutual interest in one another, but no community. Understand me rightly though; I soon felt the superiority of her intellect over mine; only it is still too strange, too inconceivable, that a woman should be what she is for me to believe entirely in her frankness, and in a total absence of artifice.
Little by little, nevertheless, he becomes convinced that, however great may be her flirting propensities, her sincerity is not feigned; and he is all admiration for “this simplicity, this divine sense of truth,” which he had not expected. On the other side, the society of this gifted young man, as yet unspoiled by premature success, was a great source of enjoyment for Caroline herself. Involuntarily she narrowly escaped inspiring him (he was then twenty-one) with a real passion. However, he became aware of the danger betimes, and avoided it, foreseeing the inevitable consequences which must ensue; and thus it was that a man who during the whole course of his life never refused himself the smallest caprice for the sake of any one, actually sacrificed a passion to his friendship for his brother Wilhelm; for the only genuinely deep feeling he ever knew was fraternal love. When he leaves Leipzig, after watching over her at the most critical period of her life, he writes: “My confidence in her is unconditional, she is no longer that singular, unfathomable being of whom one is constantly learning, but the best of creatures, who makes me blush for my faults.” The last words are dated from Dresden, where Schlegel’s married sister, and Körner, the intimate friend of Schiller, and father of the patriot poet, were then residing. Five years afterwards he portrayed her in his Lucinde, and there is nothing in this description — rather forced, by the way, like many of his writings whenever he attempts to be poetical — to denote the slightest anticipation of their subsequent rupture.
Her charming little girl had been a still greater resource to her during her seclusion than even Friedrich Schlegel’s company. “Without this child I should really not be able to bear solitude: but she is so full of spirits and animation that at the end of the day I scarcely perceive that I have neither left my room nor seen a human countenance.”
Before she left her retirement in search of peace and affection at the Gotters’, Caroline had the satisfaction of receiving a visit from her old friend Meyer, and again renewing an intimacy which had received so many shocks. At last, in the first days of February, 1794, She actually arrives at the house of her faithful friends in |425| Gotha; but, alas! the year she passed with them, far from contributing towards recruiting her strength and restoring the peace of mind she so ardently wished for, was destined to be one of the most trying of her eventful life. The proficiency of country towns in persecuting individuals who shine by superiority of any kind, or who simply suffice to themselves, or call forth virtuous censure under any form, is well known. Nowhere is this quality developed to a higher degree of perfection than in the tiny capitals of Germany. Scarcely had Caroline made her appearance in Gotha, when the Gotters’ house was shunned by every one.
Political prejudices are stronger here than anywhere else, and serve as a pretext for avoiding me. If they knew all, how little need there would be for this excuse. Even my friends themselves find certain things in my life difficult to explain, and will soon lose the courage to defend me. . . . Do not think me cowardly because I am deeply wounded. You cannot think me capable of bearing this kind of suffering with the heroism of an actress, any more than of losing my self-respect. . . . I care not for intercourse with the multitude, but can I remain indifferent when I see my friends exposed to annoyance on my account?
Yet the Gotters, far from uttering a complaint, continued steadfastly to uphold and defend her against her enemies, and entreated her not to leave them. They even tried to bring about a reconciliation between her and her husband’s family; but in vain. Gradually the ties which united her to her Mayence friends slackened. Forster died of a broken heart in Paris (February [January; ed.], 1794). Theresa still continued sending her, from time to time, what Caroline wittily calls “manifestoes of the Autocrat of all the Russias to the Polish Republic,” or sentimental allusions to Forster, to hastening whose untimely end she had herself contributed more than any one or anything else; first, by her harshness and capricious temper; then by encouraging and flattering his inordinate vanity, and urging him to the false step he had taken; and, lastly, by betraying his confidence. At another time she sends her good advice, such as:
I am unaware whether your heart be disengaged or not just now, or what may be occupying love’s place in it; but if still in connection with the other sex, beware lest they slight or take advantage of you. . . . If you can get on without them, so much the better, till you have found out your right walk in life. You must unlearn Tatter; Schlegel may have been able to save you, but he is totally inadequate to the task of guiding you.
Caroline answers all this with cold dignity, not wholly free from a tinge of irony. It is easy to perceive that misfortune has not blunted the edges of her wit; but there is no danger of her following her friend to Strasburg. Meyer, as usual, feigns not to understand the hints she throws out; so that, in despair, she at last begins to think of Dresden, where Friedrich Schlegel and his sister are living, as a place to settle in. Still, she has a slight dread of the Körner set, |426| and is not wrong in supposing them to be strongly prejudiced against her. Scruples of delicacy deter her from appealing a second time to August Wilhelm Schlegel; this is, therefore, undertaken for her by Friedrich, who urges the matter so forcibly upon his brother that he ultimately succeeds in prevailing upon him to give up his situation in Holland, and return to Germany. The question now is to find a suitable place of residence; no easy matter for them. Caroline, having gone to Göttingen on a visit, had received notice from the authorities to quit the town; as even six years after, returning there with her second husband, permission was denied her to remain. The Saxon ministers were, it seems, equally opposed to a “Jacobin woman” settling in Dresden. Besides, new difficulties are arising within the circle of her own family; so that, harassed on all sides, she at one time entertains serious thoughts of going to America or to Rome, which last plan is greatly encouraged by Friedrich. Finally she decides upon repairing to Brunswick to one of her sisters, [Luise] and she gives a narrative of her three days’ journey there from Göttingen which is worthy of the pen of Fielding himself. Here she is joined by Schlegel in July, 1795, whom she finds slightly changed. His way of speaking, “with clearness and warmth, without vehemence, and yet with fascinating eloquence,” pleases her; but she is somewhat disappointed to find him a good deal Frenchified. In short, she now sees in her old friend and admirer that polished, elegant man of the world, that Schlegel of whom history has carefully preserved the type. She finds him, however, quite unaltered in his feelings and in his behaviour towards herself, and while she still maintains that “men who are no men can make even the best of women unhappy,” she yet begins to feel affection for him; notwithstanding which we find her in October, 1795, quite as averse as she had formerly been to any idea of a marriage between them. Soon, however, her tone begins to be modified: “You always seem to me to have a pique against the Schlegels,” she writes in French to Meyer, “whereas I own to a tenderness for them. At any rate, I cannot deny that they have exercised considerable influence over my destiny; for if I do not go to Dresden, I shall certainly go to Holland.”
But instead of adopting this resolution, she lingers on at Brunswick for nearly a year, her time being completely filled up, now in assisting Schlegel in his work for Schiller’s periodicals, now with the society of Eschenburg, not yet supplanted by the Schlegels on the throne of criticism, now with the theatre, and last, though not least, with her little daughter’s education. It was no easy matter to persuade her into contracting a more intimate alliance with Wilhelm Schlegel, whom she thoroughly liked and esteemed, it is true, but for whom she was unable to cherish a tenderer feeling. He was obliged even to have recourse to the little Augusta, then but ten years old, |427| to plead his cause. “Just think it over, you and your mamma,” he says; “for you, at any rate, have nothing to object; have you, Gusteline?” Finally, to provide “protection for herself and her child,” and “more to comply with her mother’s wish than her own inclinations,” she consented to their union, which was considered by both the contracting parties as leaving each “entire liberty.” Even then she distinctly felt “Schlegel never ought to have been more to her than the friend he had so bravely been all her life, sometimes with true nobility of soul.” Her “sincerity towards him was without reserve, at any rate,” and Schlegel would have had no right whatever had he complained of her later on — which, to do him justice, he never did—for being no more than a friend to him. Her friendship was genuine, active, useful, and devoted; it may even be said without any exaggeration that Schlegel never would have been the man he afterwards became, had it not been for her. The wedding took place on the first of July, 1796, Caroline being at that time thirty-three and Schlegel twenty-nine years of age. They left the day after for Jena, where Schlegel went in consequence of the earnest solicitations of Schiller, who was most anxious to secure so valuable a coadjutor. As for the liberal and enlightened government of Karl August, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and his friend Goethe, they were of course too wise to throw the slightest difficulty in the way of their settling at that university in their dominions.
|549| Jena was in the very zenith of its glory at the time August Wilhelm Schlegel and his wife came there to reside, settling in “a tiny house,” which was soon to become the chief laboratory of romanticism and general rendezvous of all champions of the new school. Weimar being within a very short distance, moreover, Herder, Wieland, and, above all, Göthe himself, were in the habit of riding over to pass a few days, and even weeks, at the small university town where Schiller, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Hufeland, Fichte, and, not long after, both the Schlegels, Schelling, Hegel, and Voss — I must needs limit myself to the most illustrious names — taught and wrote, surrounded by a host of other less remarkable thinkers and authors, who might themselves have claimed a first place anywhere else.
Although Caroline never had any great taste for the highflown, rhetorical style of poetry, and — in her opinion, at least — somewhat too abstract tendencies of the author of Don Carlos, their first visit on arriving was, of course, to Schiller, to whose pressing instances may be mainly attributed their resolution of taking up their residence at Jena. Caroline found him at this first interview “handsomer than she had expected,” and most “kind and pleasant” towards herself and her young husband, whose merits he appeared thoroughly to appreciate, and in whom he evidently hoped, not without reason, to find a learned, brilliant, and versatile collaborator. It was difficult to visit Schiller’s house without meeting Wilhelm von Humboldt, with whom he at that time stood on terms of the closest intimacy and community of ideas. Humboldt, with whom Caroline had formerly had occasion to correspond, showed himself in his behaviour towards her, as usual, perfectly courteous and scrupulously urbane, was frigidly communicative, and, in short, did not succeed in pleasing her. This singular “sophist,” whose writings betrayed the acute dialectician and the profound thinker, was verbose, commonplace, and uninteresting in the extreme in his letters and conversation, unless, indeed, when irony, or I was about to say malice, came to the rescue, lending zest to his platitudes and an edge to his wit.
At the bedside of Charlotte Schiller, then just confined of her second child, she met with one who had played no insignificant a part in the outset of Schiller’s career, and for whom a still more important one stood in reserve in the life of another poet. I allude to Charlotte von Kalb, Jean Paul’s Titanide [character of Linda in his novel Titan (1800–1803)]. This passionate, though at the same time languishing, sentimental woman, who, while |550| despising convention, and looking down upon social prejudices, was utterly unable to forget or divest herself of them for a moment — this nature essentially German at the bottom was not at all agreeable to the lively, spirited little Jacobin, whose own nature had a good deal more that was French in it than the “new ideas.” The first thing she saw in Schiller’s enthusiastic friend was that in spite of all her kindness she was a fine lady et même très fort. Still, on meeting with her again at Weimar towards the close of the year, she is greatly struck by her air de grande dame and consciousness of her noble pedigree in spite of all her rage for emancipation. “You may talk as you like, but at the last judgment she is sure to pass her genealogical examination with all due honour, and her ancestry will be found stainless. She is not impolite towards me, but her intellect — for she has one — is cast in the strangest of moulds.”
Another of Charlotte Schiller’s rivals, and one whom she received and accepted with a very good grace, her own sister, Caroline von Wolzogen, was even less to our friend’s taste; she finds her “rather dull and wearisome, and far less unaffected than Charlotte.” Schiller’s heart had hesitated between these two sisters at a time when the youngest was still Fräulein von Lengefeld and the eldest Frau von Beulwitz; and even after his marriage with Charlotte von Lengefeld, and her sister’s divorce and second alliance with Schiller’s old friend, Herr von Wolzogen, the enthusiastic friendship existing between the author of the Räuber and the writer of Agnes von Lilien  did not by any means cool down. Still, for some time past, while preserving her enthusiasm for Schiller and a tender regard for her husband, Caroline von Wolzogen had centred her most ardent affections upon the least ardent of men, Wilhelm von Humboldt, then only just married, and Schiller’s most intimate friend. As for Frau von Humboldt, née von Dacheröden, we learn that she easily consoled herself, and followed her own inclinations.
Besides the above-mentioned, other meteors were to be seen traversing the Jena sky, such as crazy Sophie Méreau, for instance, then about to quit her husband’s roof to wed the brother of Bettina Brentano, who, by-the-bye, was not a whit less crazy than herself; and pretty Frau von Berlepsch, who was at that time running after Mounier, the French constituant, acting provisionally as schoolmaster at Weimar. Nor could the strange morality of this motley group of literati and fine ladies fail to make a strong impression upon the already somewhat emancipated mind of Caroline Schlegel. She soon found no difficulty in adopting the tone of those by whom she was surrounded, and began to ask herself, as a matter of course, “with Frau Schiller, why Göthe had not preferred bringing back some |551| handsome Italian girl with him from his travels,” than continuing to live with that well-known young German lady whom Frau Rath, his mother, the venerable Frankfort patrician matron, with the singular absence of prejudice peculiar to those times, made no scruple whatever of calling “her dear daughter.”
I have insisted upon certain characteristic circumstances and facts, such as the above, and lay particular stress on these quite unintentionally-used expressions, at the imminent risk, I am well aware, of passing for a retailer of scandal and a lover of anecdotes, or may be worse, in the eyes of many a grave historian, who imagines himself very probably to be writing literary history while analysing chefs d’oeuvre of the past, in order to save his readers the trouble of reading them themselves. My reason for so doing is that apparently insignificant facts such as those I have just quoted, and words pronounced in familiar intercourse, contribute more in my opinion towards a right understanding of German classical poetry, as well as of the singular period which gave rise to it, than all the folios of official history and quartos of orthodox criticism put together. This was the society which furnished Göthe with the types for his two Eleonoras. It was this society which was suddenly overtaken and crushed by the catastrophe of 1806. At once naive and refined, aristocratic by its elements and revolutionary by its tendencies, disorganised by ideal, as others have been by material, egotism, this circle had, in fact, conceived an altogether false and disproportionate idea of the rights of the individual as opposed to the community, and the freedom of action to which he or she might lay claim in actual life; it presents us with the attractive, gently tragical spectacle of a generation which we are inclined in turn to pity or to smile at, which alternately excites our anger and our enthusiasm, and yet in which we cannot help feeling a certain amount of interest.
I have already hinted at the small attraction which Schiller’s somewhat overstrained and rhetorical muse possessed for Caroline; but it was very different with Göthe, whose simpler, more familiar tone, truer and more touching feeling, corresponded far better to her own sentiments. With a remarkable sureness of instinct, she, like Rahel, at once felt the immense superiority of Göthe over the whole generation, and that, moreover, at a time when, amid the hosts of different poetical productions which were crowding upon each other, even the best judges hesitated in forming any decided opinion. She had already seen Göthe at Göttingen in 1783, where he won the hearts of all the pedants who were in league against him, and he had produced a lively and lasting impression upon her at that time. Shortly after their arrival at Jena, the poet, as was his custom, rode over on horseback to pass a few days there. He immediately came to call upon the young writer, who not only promised but already held so |552| much, and his amiable wife. He found her at home alone, “was as pleasant as possible, said much that was flattering concerning Schlegel, and promised he would soon return, and see them often”—a promise which, however, he did not keep, for reasons which will be explained hereafter. They subsequently met several times at the hospitable houses of the Griesbachs and Hufelands, where the Schlegels were always cordially welcomed. Caroline and her husband then returned Göthe’s visit at Weimar, upon which occasion he gave a dinner in honour of the couple, and Herder an evening party. She was so taken with the latter as “almost to fall in love with him.” Frau Herder she had, indeed, expected to find “smaller, gentler, and more womanly.” However, the qualities of the husband amply made up for anything that may have disappointed her in the wife.
“Besides,” she writes, “that Curland accent is alone sufficient to win one’s heart; and then his ease and yet dignity of manner, the clever gracefulness in all he says, and he never says anything one is not gratified to hear. It is a long time since any one has charmed me so much. . . . Wieland, too, was in capital humour, saying plenty of amusing things, and in a towering rage against pigs, for whose existence he can never forgive the Creator, and which he called the anti-Graces in his pathetic indignation.”
They also came in contact with Knebel, that original creature, “a nobleman’s brave spirit,” and with Falk, the satirist, “the best fellow in the world, who lets the Weimar people pet him, for they always must have somebody of that kind.” The Dowager Duchess and Karl August himself, usually so anxious to seize upon all rising stars, do not appear to have exhibited any great alacrity with regard to the Schlegels, nor did the court volunteer to open its doors to them on any of their subsequent visits to Weimar. Yet there can be little doubt that, had there been a real desire for their intercourse, an exception might easily have been made in their favour, as had been the case with Wieland and Merck, in spite of the aristocratic prejudices and nearly insurmountable difficulties of etiquette which still prevailed, even at Karl August’s court.  It is not to be wondered at, at any rate, that our new-comers should feel themselves perfectly at home in Thuringia, when they saw how cordially they were welcomed by the princes of German literature.
“I continue to feel happy beyond everything here,” Caroline writes, after more than two months. “I have settled comfortably down, and feel as though I might take up a lasting residence in this country. I still remain true to my first resolution of making but few acquaintances. I see little or nothing of the students, and have secured myself, at any rate, against their smashing my windows, as our dwelling is in a back-yard. We walk out every evening, and our domestic circle has turned from a trio to a quartett since the arrival of my brother-in-law, who is a great source of enjoyment to us, with his rough pate, inside and out.”
|553| This addition to their household was, however, not always to prove so great a source of satisfaction to them. The small house they had taken at Jena was not only a place of recreation, it was, above all, a study and literary workshop. Schlegel had already begun to contribute to Schiller’s Musen-Almanach and Horen. His facility both in reading and composition was so great that he was able to send in critical essays issuing from his own pen to almost every number of these periodicals. Caroline was of the greatest assistance to him, not only in reading and in forming an opinion on the works read, but also in writing. Several of the most celebrated critical essays published at that period under his name were really, if not wholly, at any rate in great part, her work. Among others we may mention the admirable review of Romeo and Juliet. But of about three hundred reviews of different books which appeared in the Horen, the Litteratur-Zeitung, and the Elegante Zeitung, which were generally attributed to Schlegel himself, a great many were entirely written by his wife, who, not content with helping him in this way, did not even shrink from the mechanical task of copying for him whenever she could thereby lessen his burthen of work. Her direct co-operation was nevertheless far less important than her indirect collaboration. Her woman’s instinct was surer, her taste and tact had greater delicacy than Schlegel’s; and, in spite of his rapidity of judgment, he was in an eminent degree accessible to personal influence. It must, moreover, be confessed that Germany’s greatest critic after Lessing in reality had no settled opinions, and was mainly occupied during the four busiest years of his life, in clothing those he borrowed from Caroline in his own style, in lending them the solid support of his own superior learning, and amplifying as well as systematising them with that peculiar ability for dialectics which forms his chief characteristic.
When the Schlegels first arrived at Jena the generous friendship which united Göthe and Schiller had but just commenced, and was as yet in its militant period with regard to the outer world. These two great men and great poets having at length mutually acknowledged each other’s worth, immediately contracted an offensive and defensive alliance against the enemies of truth and of the beautiful, whose name was then, alas! as it ever will be, legion. They had just carried warfare into the enemy’s territory by sundry smart attacks, each bringing his own peculiar qualities into the field, frequently opposed, and thereby serving as a complement to those which distinguished the other. Caroline had never disguised her partiality for Göthe’s genius, and with her to prefer was vehemently to side with. Now, this very summer, that of 1796, was marked by the appearance of the famous Xenien, that well-known series of satirical epigrams by the two allied poets, which at that time created so great a sensation, |554| and threw the surrounding world into consternation and confusion. Complaints resounded on every side from those who had been so unfortunate as to feel the darts of the bright Dioscuri of Weimar and Jena. Never did any parliamentary campaign in a political country stir up such a hurricane of hatred and passion as was provoked by this literary warfare in one, the interests of which were as yet of an almost exclusively intellectual nature. With the natural acuteness of a woman’s instinct, Caroline was not long in detecting whence the shafts proceeded. At the outset the contents of the whole quiver were laid to Göthe’s account; but she at once writes to her friends that “Schiller had stood by him faithfully; his missiles bring down less comical prey, but they are more venomous.” As soon, however, as a few of them chanced to fall within the precincts of her own garden, she began to be vexed — “The whole thing displeases me more and more, and I must say I bear Schiller a grudge on account of it, entre nous, for, believe me, five-sixths of them are his, and the sprightly, inoffensive ones alone are by Göthe.”  Schiller will have to pay for all the breakages; he lays himself so open that one can take hold of him on all sides, and besides, he is susceptible, — his vengeance shows that.”
The original cause of the rupture which subsequently took place was, as usual, Friedrich Schlegel. Elsewhere (see Revue des Deux Mondes, number of March l5th, 1870 [“La société de Berlin de 1789 à 1815, d’après des correspondances et des mémoirés du temps publiés de 1859 &agreave; 1869,” 447–86]) I have already attempted to delineate the character of this singular personage, who was not less vain, while far less reliable, than his brother, although possessing a deeper and more powerful intellect. But whereas Wilhelm’s weaknesses, and his pretensions to the refinement of a man of the world, exercised no deteriorating influence upon his intrinsic merits, Friedrich’s mania of giving himself out for a fiery impetuous nature, an inspired, tyrannically capricious genius, on the contrary, spoilt his fine speculative qualities, and did real injury as well to his writings as to his career. This affected indomitableness of character usually manifested itself in practical life by gross breaches of tact and delicacy, in literature by voluntary and intentional sensuality or cutting paradox. The year before Schiller had published his admirable Essay on Naïve and Sentimental Poetry, in which, setting out from Kant’s principles, he for the first time clearly specified the characteristic difference between modern and ancient poetry, eloquently defending and proving the legitimacy of the former, and even for those who know how to read between the lines, the legitimate rights of Friedrich Schiller’s reflective and sentimental muse beside the more “naive and plastic ” goddess who inspired Wolfgang Göthe. Now Friedrich Schlegel himself had already treated this very same |555| subject some time before in a somewhat unripe production, and naturally felt himself overtaken and distanced by the maturer thinker. Greatly stung by this mortification, he immediately set about reducing to a complete system the detailed objections he had to make to Schiller’s essay, and published them in Reichardt’s Deutschland, following them up rapidly, in spite of strenuous efforts on the part of his brother to deter him, by two other articles directed against Schiller’s essays and philosophical poems. The tone assumed by this young writer towards a man of Schiller’s standing — for it must be borne in mind that Friedrich Schlegel was then only twenty-four, and had produced neither Rauber nor Don Carlos — was one of intolerable arrogance and presumption. Schiller was deeply wounded by it; so much so, indeed, that a tardy effort on the part of his juvenile antagonist to mitigate the violence of his previous attacks by a less severe conclusion remained without avail, and Schlegel had to bear the brunt of the Titan’s wrath. Xenie after Xenie pierced with their poisoned darts the but too susceptible vanity of these “gentlemen who teach to-day what they learnt but yesterday.” Friedrich Schlegel’s reply was a sharp criticism of the epigrams in which he heavily ridicules “Patroclus, too rash for his own welfare, giving himself the airs of the great Pelide” — i.e., Göthe. Throughout the whole of that year this warfare was kept up in a similar tone, and women’s mischief-making talk did much to envenom the quarrel. The best, oldest, and truest friend Schiller ever had was Körner the elder, father of the well-known poet patriot, who fell a victim in the wars of 1813. Now Korner’s sister-in-law, Dora Stock, had been affianced to that same unfortunate Huber with whom Theresa Forster had eloped. This forsaken lady had somehow or other got into her head, quite erroneously, that Caroline Schlegel had done a good deal towards promoting this piece of double treachery, and had in consequence vowed her a persistent and deadly hatred, which was to pursue her wherever she went and to the very end of her life. Soon there is no crime of which Dame Lucifer — for thus she is styled even by Schiller himself — is not accused, or, at any rate thought capable, by the set which at that time was grouped around the great poet. It is quite nauseous to peruse the letters of some female gossips to Charlotte Schiller on this subject, especially those of Frau von Hoven and a certain Madam Niethammer. Women totally devoid of all personal charms, old maids, or the wives of University professors, can alone reach such a degree of refined cruelty in distilling poison drop by drop out of the paltriest elements, in order to injure one of their own sex, whose misfortune, or, in their eyes, crime it is to have what they lack, and to possess superior attraction for the opposite sex.
|556| We are sorry also to be obliged to add that Schiller himself never could succeed in shaking off certain littlenesses of character acquired, no doubt, in early youth, in the stifling, contagious atmosphere of small country-towns, and that he persisted to the last in bringing as much vehemence of passionate interest to bear upon the most trifling personal matters as he showed enthusiasm in advocating grand impersonal ideas. A long habit of battling against poverty had left behind it a meanness in views regarding money matters strikingly at variance with the usual grandeur of his nature. Previously to contracting that memorable friendship with the other great German star, which will for ever be one of the greatest glories of the country, he had severely criticised Karl August’s extravagance for allowing Göthe two thousand thalers “to spend in Italy doing nothing.” On hearing that Caroline had helped Friedrich Schlegel in writing the essay against the Horen — which was not true by the way — he immediately writes in the following terms to her husband (April, 1797):
I was happy to be able to procure you the means of earning a remuneration such as is seldom to be had, by inserting your translations from Dante and Shakespeare; but since I am informed that Herr Friedrich Schlegel chooses the very moment in which I have obtained these advantages for you to censure me publicly for admitting too many translations into the Horen, you must excuse me if I refrain from doing so in future. And, to release you once for all from a position which must necessarily weigh upon your frankness and delicacy, let us break off a connection which, under the circumstances, would be too strange, and has already too often compromised my confidence.
Schlegel was weak enough to make an attempt at justifying himself in an answer to this letter, and even Caroline herself condescended to add a postscript to her husband’s reply. All was, however, in vain, for although the parties concerned continued to keep up social intercourse, it always remained of the most distant and frigid kind. Göthe, generally wont to espouse his friend’s quarrels, was this time forced to admit that Schiller was in the wrong, and, without ever contracting any intimacy with the Schlegels, he continued on a footing of regard and esteem with them, which the elder brother at any rate deserved. While Schiller could discern nothing beyond “heartless, sterile coldness” in all they wrote, Göthe never ceased viewing them in. their true light, viz., as the first German critics of the day. He even went the lengths of admiring their poetry; this, however, was over-doing it. When director of the Weimar theatre, he insisted upon having Wilhelm’s Ion performed, identifying himself to so great an extent with his protegé that he seriously quarrelled with some ill-disposed critics, and even had recourse to his ministerial authority in order to silence their opposition. The husband and wife, on their side, remained true to him, especially Caroline; and it is touching to remark her constancy |557| and affectionate admiration for Göthe as displayed in his correspondence, which embraces a period of more than thirty years, and in which she always speaks of him in the same high terms, both as a man and a poet, in spite of the frigid politeness with which he never ceased to treat her. “There is not an archer rogue under the sun,” she says, alluding to him, “nor a better, more innocent heart,” and when her friends are in trouble or perplexity, it is to Göthe she sends them to seek counsel and comfort.
She did not fail, of course, to direct Friedrich’s attention towards Göthe’s works, warning him at the same time against Schiller’s tendency, as she afterwards did with Schelling. Nevertheless, there was far too much of the woman in her nature, she had too much tact, and, besides, too great an interest in remaining on good terms with Schiller, to become the instigator of a personal quarrel of that kind, or provoke the untimely and unbecoming attacks of her brother-in-law. But hostilities once commenced, it was not in her character to remain a neutral spectator or a half enemy. From that moment there can be no doubt whatever that she really became the soul and presiding genius of the whole conspiracy — or shall I rather call it campaign — which the romantic school directed against Schiller, “moral, leaden Schiller.” Even the tactics of this literary warfare had something indescribably feminine in them. The adversary was to be crushed by silence and disdain, and it is easy to see what such silence and disdain cost them. When unable at times to contain themselves, he is incidentally alluded to as they would mention a August von Kotzebue or Iffland, or any other supplies of stage répertoires. In private correspondence they treated the author of Wallenstein as a complete nullity, turning his dramatic manufacture into ridicule. Nor must it be supposed that the Schlegels stood alone in this. Herder’s correspondence teems with the same ill-disguised acrimony against Schiller. Envy, from which Herder was by no means free, and wounded vanity, of which the Schlegels owned an unusual amount, had in fact a great deal more to do with this hostile attitude than any aesthetic convictions, and the opinions of the new school were far oftener dictated by personal considerations or momentary caprice than any of them cared to confess. Still the basis of this virulent opposition rested in reality on a new doctrine and a point of view entirely differing from those which at that time prevailed. “This is war against the majority,” says Caroline; and even the contradictions in the works which proceeded from this school may be traced to this common source. A moral Schiller was looked down upon with disdain, while an immoral Wieland excited virtuous indignation. “Immoral Wieland,” forsooth! The word is monstrous in the mouth of the author of |558| Lucinde, and addressed to one who, sixteen years before, treated all less enthusiastic admirers of Oberon as “obtuse minds and crazy heads”! Still we can perfectly understand how the leading principles of a new school reclaiming art for art’s sake, and poetry for poetry’s sake, could be hurt equally by the ideal morality, by the categorical imperative which inspired Schiller, and by the didactic rationalism, calling itself Socratic — true inheritance of the eighteenth century — of which Wieland could not divest himself.
As for Caroline, although agreeing in the main with the young rebels, and expressing astonishment that the “purest, loftiest work of modern poetry (Dante’s Divina Commedia) should have connected itself with that wretched Virgil,” she nevertheless took care not to draw extreme conclusions with regard to reality. These new sectarians had all been seized with a violent mania for poeticising every-day life, and Caroline often had occasion to pity that poor little Fräulein Paulus — afterwards the wife of August Wilhelm himself — for being forced “into so eccentric a course” without having “a single spark of poetry in her.” She rails at Clemens Brentano for “coming to present himself to Friedrich Schlegel at Jena, as he would to some high priest, in order to ascertain whether or no he be free from the slightest taint of leprosy,” and for making such a fool of himself by his “unlimited impertinence.” She laughs at Friedrich and his paradoxical aggressive doctor’s theses, and ridicules the airs of a Diogenes, which Friedrich Tieck, the sculptor, gives himself. Still, among the whole of this romantic set, who believed implicitly that Ludwig Tieck’s poetry was quite on a par with Göthe’s, and were in earnest when they assigned a higher place to their poor consumptive Novalis than to robust, healthy Lessing; she alone contrived to preserve sufficient freedom of judgment and impartiality to enable her to be just, not only to their adversaries — with the solitary exception of Schiller, who, it must not be forgotten, had grossly offended her — but also to their friends, which was a good deal less easy. She never ceased to disapprove of Lucinde, nor would this objectionable work ever have been published had she had her own way; nevertheless she was not deterred by anything of this kind from acknowledging her young brother-in-law’s real superiority over the other adepts of the new creed, even after the rupture which eventually occurred between them. “Friedrich is profound,” she says, “sometimes even too profound; inwardly grand, he is outwardly a fool. He carries childlike confidence and unconsciousness even into the intentional artifice of his compositions.” If, on the one hand, she erred in exaggerating her husband’s merits as a dramatic writer, more especially with regard to his Ion; on the other, she is surely deserving of all praise for constantly urging him to complete that work, which she herself foretells was one day to be “the pillar of |559| his glory,” viz., his translation of Shakespeare. Even at a time when there was no longer any reason for partiality towards him, she continued to admit that he was the only one among this set who worked hard, knew his own mind, and was ready at all times. And when at last they all begin to turn their stings against Göthe himself, she writes to Schelling: “Don’t chime in chorus, nor take part in the blasphemies against Göthe;” and makes no ceremony whatever, speaking of Tieck’s poems, in laughing at his “imagination, always flapping its wings and fluttering, yet unable to soar aloft!” She delights in Voltaire’s tales, but as for his tragedies, she cares for them only in Göthe’s harmonious translations, of which she says: “He has set Voltaire to music, as Mozart did Schikaneder,” alluding to Tancred and the Zauberflöte.
Her husband knew well how to turn her eminent cleverness and perspicacity to the best possible account; and her brother-in-law would have liked to do the same, but he set about it too awkwardly. He had at that time just left Jena for Berlin, where he was starting a new periodical called the Athenaeum, by means of which it was his intention to place the whole of contemporary German literature “in a state of siege” — from Nicolai’s antiquated rationalist school, that pig-tail of Lessing’s, to the epicurism of Wieland and his followers, Schiller’s Idealism, the self-styled Humorists à la Hippel, and finally down to the pure classical writers, Göthe always excepted. Caroline was — to use his own inappropriate language — to assist him “in taming and drilling this young Herculean bear” (the Athenaeum!) She was likewise requested to send direct fragmentary contributions from her own pen — for these Romantiker, like most people devoid of creative power, had a mania for fragments. She, however, refused to contribute, for she knew herself too well to exchange willingly the part of an Egeria for that of a Sappho. He next took to extracting passages from his brilliant sister-in-law’s private letters, with a view to inserting them in his periodical; fortunately for Caroline, however, he soon convinced himself that they were altogether of too personal a nature — “too pure, too beautiful, too delicate to allow of his making her appear intentional by detaching portions of them.” Finding himself unsuccessful with the mother, he then proceeded to attack the daughter. Augusta, the most charming little creature imaginable, if we are to believe our eyes in viewing the portrait which has come down to us, and the corroborative evidence of her friends and admirers, was but twelve years old in 1797, although precociously developed. It is easy to perceive by her letters, and still more by some verses addressed to Friedrich Schlegel and Tieck, that she must have been lively, bright, and childlike, yet endowed with unusual intelligence for her age. Had it been possible to spoil this wonderful child, assuredly the circle in which she grew up, and the |560| tone prevailing in it, would have done it. At times one hardly knows whether to smile or be indignant at certain passages of letters which were addressed to this young girl at the age of ten and twelve. Those of Caroline herself to her daughter are in a slight degree more guarded, for she is more natural and unaffected than the rest, and then she is her mother; yet both she and her husband, especially the latter, constantly allude to persons and things in their correspondence with her, which it would have been desirable she should have ignored. As for Friedrich, he jests with her in his coarse, heavy way. “Bid your mother keep an eye upon Wilhelm on account of the Paulus flirtation.”  And soon after, “You are just twelve years old to-day, and you will no longer be allowed to sit on my knees. I see how hard this will be for you, but it is your mother’s wish. I promise you to keep you au courant if any woman should fall in love with me, for I am not likely to fall in love with anyone.” He seriously proposes to this child to help him in his review. “Will you not take part in the Attic Museum? you shall have ten thalers a sheet for your work. Only in that case it would not be superfluous if you were to learn to treat German orthography with a little less respect.”
Friedrich’s adventures in Berlin are well known. He there became intimate with Schleiermacher and Henriette Herz (of whom, by the way, he speaks most disparagingly in his letters), and at last met with her whose influence was to supersede that of Caroline during his after-life, and who was to become his chief helpmate in his writings, and his assistant in translating Faublas, or copying his Lucinde, with her sister Henrietta. It is not my intention to enter here into the history of this daughter of Moses Mendelssohn’s, who afterwards became Friedrich Schlegel’s wife, and was the mother of Philip Veit.  Friedrich Schlegel was not her first nor her only love, as has been generally supposed. A somewhat enigmatical individual, the natural son of a reigning prince, who by turns led the life of a traveller, a military adventurer, and a scientific man, had succeeded in making a very deep impression upon her heart, and she had allowed this passively sensual feeling to get the better of her without offering any great resistance. At the time of young Schlegel’s first appearance in Berlin, she found herself in that delicate situation in which the two greatest modern poets have chosen to place their types of the lover, Romeo and Werther, in order better to illustrate the susceptibility of their hearts for new impressions. In other words, she had not yet entirely recovered from a first wound; but it appears that it was not long in healing |561| when she once knew Friedrich; for soon after we find her, with the characteristic indelicacy of the times, and of the set to which she belonged, publishing love-letters written to her by her first lover, Edouard D’Alton, in her fragmentary novel, Florentin. Her liaison with Friedrich Schlegel was, as is well-known, to give rise likewise to the publication of a novel, but this time it was the lover who took upon himself the indiscreet mission of writing Lucinde. “Pedantism,” says an epigram of that time, “asked Imagination for a kiss, but she sent him back to Sin. Bold, though impotent, he embraced her, and she brought forth a still-born offspring — Lucinde.” It would be impossible to describe the work better; it was indeed one of those boxes on the ear, as the author himself modestly styles them, which he was wont to administer to those “blind enough not to see that he had genius.” By this we can see that he was not disposed to be hard upon himself, and yet he knew his own character well, for in a lucid interval he says — “It seems to me as though the world might again be divided, as in the beginning of modern history, into two great categories — ecclesiastics and laymen. You” (meaning Wilhelm and Caroline) “belong to the lay folks, we” (i.e., he and Dorothea) “to the clerks.”
The sensual monk and his excitable nun, however, began to feel themselves considerably less at ease in Berlin, after committing this gross étourderie, and to think seriously of removing elsewhere. The gates of Dresden, where Friedrich’s married sister resided, were closed against them, not on account of any scruples of morality, but simply because Dorothea was as yet unbaptized — just as Caroline had found herself unable to re-enter her native town, Göttingen, although legally married to August Wilhelm, because she was suspected of Jacobinism. Thus we see how enviable the political state of Germany must have been in those days of unlimited intellectual freedom. Friedrich and Dorothea finished by settling at Jena, and this was a great mistake. For, although the two brothers had a sincere and heartfelt love and admiration for each other, it was a very different thing with the two sisters-in-law, and consequently dissensions speedily arose. Not that the irregularity of Dorothea Veit’s connection with Friedrich Schlegel in the least scandalized Caroline; for had she not shown herself ready to receive even Henriette, Dorothea’s sister, in spite of her full consciousness of the “innocent affection which existed between her and Wilhelm”? On the contrary, it was the ecclesiastical nature of Dorothea which found itself unable to chime in with Caroline’s mundane tendencies. Their friends are unanimous in attributing the initiative of the quarrel entirely to Dorothea, and all, even Caroline herself, agreed in absolving Friedrich from all blame in the matter excepting that of weakness.
On their first arrival Caroline had come forward to receive his |562| companion with a cordial welcome, and writes to her daughter — ” She has a national — (i.e.) Jewish look, demeanour, and countenance. I do not consider her pretty. Her eyes are large and flashing, but the lower part of her face is too careworn and heavy. She is not taller, though a little broader, than I. Her voice is the most feminine part of her.” Indeed, we have every reason to suppose that Caroline quite surpassed her in womanly attractions. There still exist two portraits of Caroline and her daughter by Tischbein, which may certainly be flattering likenesses; but painters are not given to making portraits like these unless there be something about the subject which inspires them. Both are charming, and although it be difficult not to be reminded of the matre pulchrû filia pulchrior [“O fairer daughter of a fair mother!” Horace, Odes, 1:16], still the charms of the woman of thirty-six outweigh those of the girl of fourteen. The head-dress, à la Marie-Antoinette, so exactly suits the delicate and smiling head, the eyes are so eloquently caressing, the lips seem about to utter the Siren’s lay, the neck — a thing so rare in German women — is so perfectly rounded and beautifully set upon her falling shoulders. Then, again, a light veil is cast over this amiable serenity, giving it, as it were, the stamp of the century. Those eyes must assuredly have perused Ossian, and shed tears over La Nouvelle Héloïse. It is easy to understand that Dorothea should have dreaded her influence over Friedrich. Nevertheless, things went on tolerably as long as Wilhelm remained at Jena; but when he left for Berlin (1801) the storm which had been gathering broke loose. According to true German custom, of course everyone was initiated into the innermost privacy of these family dissensions; two parties formed at Jena, one for, one against, Friedrich. As for August Wilhelm, he took Caroline’s part against his brother at a time when he was no longer in love with her, when he was sighing after Sophie Bernhardi, and when she herself made no secret of her attachment to Schelling.
It was a great relief to Caroline when Friedrich and Dorothea left Jena at last after a stay of three years (1802). “They are gone off to France,” writes she triumphantly, “to be married, à la Republicaine. Under Robespierre people were wont to call drowning in the Loire a ‘Republican wedding.’ And I must say I should not grudge one-half of this couple a wedding of that kind,” she adds, with a woman’s harshness, and a want of taste very rare in her. Friedrich went to pay her a visit before leaving Jena. “I thought myself obliged to call upon her,” he writes to Wilhelm, “since you still consider her as your wife; but the meeting was icy, although extremely polite.” Now, what could have happened to prevent August Wilhelm from considering Caroline any longer as his wife?
|563| In the autumn of 1798 a young man of twenty-three had taken out his venia docendi [“permission for lecturing “] at the Jena University, and began a course of lectures on philosophy by the very side of Fichte, who at that time — and, indeed, for long after — was looked upon as Kant’s successor in the philosophical empire. This young man was Schelling, who was destined to exercise so great an influence over German minds, and to fulfil in the ecclesia triumphans of the Romantiker that part which had been formerly sustained by Fichte in the period of their ecclesia militans.
Schelling came from a part of Germany eminently productive of strong obstinate wills, speculative intellects, and fervent convictions. He was the countryman of Schubart, Schiller, and Hegel. This praecox ingenium had made his appearance as an author by publishing some essays on Hebrew and Christian mythology, the germ of which may be sought in Herder, while their ulterior development is to be found in D. F. Strauss. Soon, however, he relinquished theology in favour of philosophy, and at the early age of nineteen wrote a remarkable treatise, in which Fichte’s inspiring influence is still vividly felt. In this and several other essays of the kind, with more or less Fichtean or Spinozist tendencies, the amazed literary world scarcely knew what to wonder at most, whether at his depth of thought, his prodigious maturity for his age, or the arrogant, supercilious, conquering tone of the young thinker. Soon we see him emancipating himself, and in 1797 he produces the first of that series of works in which he eventually exposed his own doctrine on the “Philosophy of Nature.”
He had just begun to develop it in a second work when he met with A. W. Schlegel and his wife in Dresden; the latter of whom was struck at first sight by his enthusiastic energy. They were absent from Jena on his arrival there, in the autumn of the same year (1798), to lecture as a Privat Docent; but on her return Caroline received him with great cordiality, so that when her husband arrived he already found them on terms of very great intimacy, although of an entirely platonic nature. The rising, ambitious, young philosopher, who was meditating a reform not only in science and poetry, but in the world itself, by an alliance between philosophy and poetry; this ardent, enthusiastic, dreamy nature, coupled with a tenacious will, had a strange fascination for Caroline, who for the first time in her life here found her master. What weakness, what affectations, what overstraining had she not witnessed in all those who had come near her till now! Göthe alone might, in her eyes, have stood comparison advantageously with Schelling, as far as vigour, freshness, spontaneousness, and facility were concerned; but, then, Göthe was no longer |564| young, and, moreover held her at a distance. Schelling, who was drawn towards her like the iron to the magnet, possessed the one great attraction of youth, quite irresistible, indeed, for some women, who, born with a great natural disposition towards tenderness, have never either loved nor been loved passionately. The impression made upon her by this blunt, ardent nature betrays itself every moment in her letters. “He is more interesting personally than you will allow,” she writes to Friedrich Schlegel. “His is a thoroughly genuine nature, something akin to what granite is among minerals.” For a long while she strives to deceive herself as to the nature of her affection for him; but in this she only half succeeds. She even meditates a future alliance between Schelling and her daughter Augusta, at that time on a visit to the family of the painter Tischbein, at Dessau; and she entreats her not to be jealous “of her mamma.” Schelling, less calm, soon begins to write her the most passionate verses, wherein science and religion, poetry and love, are strangely mixed up. They all read the Italian poets together, and make sonnets after the manner of Petrarca; soon Caroline becomes the Beatrice of this new Dante, who was at that time preparing a mystical epic poem. The peace with Dorothea and her husband was as yet unbroken, and “holy Father Fritz, fervent in God,” was the interpreter of the divine poet.
Afterwards, when the households of the two Schlegel brothers began to be thoroughly disunited, when August Wilhelm, attracted in a different direction, left Jena for months at a time, Schelling established his domicile in the house, and took his meals with Caroline, bringing back light and warmth to this somewhat chilly hearth. “He is the giver of joy; for he is mild, affectionate, and cheerful.” And Caroline, though more enthusiastic for the philosopher than for his philosophy—Caroline, the light-hearted woman of the world—insensibly and visibly becomes a Diotima. She gradually acquires a taste for transcendent speculation. Schelling’s obscure system has no obscurities for her like that of Fichte, because “Schelling has poetry in his nature, while Fichte has none.” She entirely adopted Schelling’s worship for nature. “Sole divinity, acknowledged by me,” she writes later on, in a passage of her lover’s “Clara,” attributed to her; “sole divinity, whose strength I feel, good Mother Nature, let my tongue paint the images of thy words; never let the feeling within me, which is thy work, err; never allow my instinctive knowledge to become a learned one.” There are some thoughts “which I cannot quite understand, yet I believe in them; and by faith and imagination I can easily be led wherever you like. Only the steps up the ladders, the demonstrations and consequences, are not made for me.” It is clear that her “love has turned into philosophy, and her philosophy into love.” And the stanzas addressed to |565| her by Schelling at Christmas, 1799 — about fifteen months after their first meeting — resemble the inspiration of the writer of the Divina Commedia, when he invokes the aid of the blessed friend of his youth to give him courage enough to terminate his great work.
Augusta, meanwhile, was gently and sweetly budding into womanhood; but Schelling remained insensible to her growing charms; for an attraction, which is by no means uncommon with young people, irresistibly drew him towards the maturer poetry of autumn rather than that of spring. In the month of May, 1800, Caroline went with her daughter to Bocklet, a small watering-place near Bamberg, accompanied by Schelling, or rather in his suite; for he had to go to Bamberg, and she had not the heart to let him go there alone. Had she not vowed to herself that she would devote herself to him, watch over him, and, without requiring his love, at least claim the right of protecting him? This touching species of resignation is by no means rare in similar situations with tender-hearted women, nor is it the less admirable because accompanied by a strong dose of self-delusion. “You know that I shall follow you wherever you wish; for your life and your work are alike sacred to me, and ministering in the sanctuary — in the divine sanctuary — is reigning upon earth.”
A terrible blow roused Caroline from her dream. Her daughter Augusta died at Bocklet during the temporary absence of Schelling. She was but fifteen years old. Caroline’s grief nearly crushed her. She never entirely recovered from the shock it gave her, and the sad recollection of her dead child returned even at the close of her life, when surrounded by peace and happiness. She came out of this supreme ordeal a changed being, hardly venturing to own to herself that, in one respect at least, it was a release. It was the one great crisis of her life; from that time forwards she was able to regain her serenity; for this seems to have been an indestructible element of her nature — but she never again recovered the giddy light-heartedness of her youth. The nine closing years of her life seem, as it were, shrouded in a veil, yet they were years of happiness, nevertheless.
Caroline immediately tore herself away from the sad scene of her cruel bereavement, and sought a refuge and retreat in her married sister’s house at Brunswick, where Schlegel joined her, whilst Schelling returned to Jena. The latter had been deeply shocked by Augusta’s sudden death; being thus left alone with Caroline, and attempting to console and comfort her in her sorrows, he felt as can only great crises in life make one feel, how poor and inadequate platonic love is. He began to discover the real state of his feelings, which till then he had hidden from his own sight under an enthusiastic worship. As soon as he perceived it, he also became aware of the impediments which seemed to stand in the way of his |566| ever possessing the being he so passionately loved. The letters of this young man, whose energy rendered him almost harsh — of this Titan, who shortly before was ready to scale the Olympus — all at once take a tender, Wertherian tone. Thoughts of voluntarily terminating his existence present themselves to his mind; his letters are a series of hysterical sobs. Caroline, herself utterly bowed down by grief, is now obliged to use all her efforts to support her young friend; for in capability of suffering, no man, however strong-minded or strong-willed, can compete with woman. She is quite inexhaustible in her protestations of a love which is not the less tender from being supposed henceforward to be of a purely maternal nature.
My soul, my life, I love thee with my whole being. Do not doubt this under any circumstances. What a flash of exultation when Schlegel handed me your letter last night! . . . You love me, and even were the spasm of grief which is rending your bosom to lead you astray, and become hatred, you love me not the less. I deserve it too, and this universe would be but a mere trifle, if we had not, indeed, found one another for evermore.
She sends him to Göthe, the supreme comforter, to seek counsel and strength in “his clear eye.”
In the pathetic affection felt by a maturer woman for a younger man, there always enters a touch of maternal feeling. It is just this desire to guard and protect, together with the constant unowned dread of losing their protégé when youth and nature shall begin to assert their rights, which gives a love of this kind something which is inexpressibly touching.
Still this maternal, or rather sisterly, affection which had so long served to deceive Schelling concerning the true nature of his own feelings, no longer sufficed to content him. He reproaches her with trying to avoid him, and she defends herself against his accusations:
Even though I leave you, I do so differently from what you think. Never was I more strongly, more indissolubly attached to you than at present. . . . Take our singular alliance for what it is, and cease lamenting that which never could have been. I know full well that with a nature like mine, and as a woman, this is far easier for me than for you. . . . Resignation has given me depth, and a first love a serenity altogether inexplicable, although this love itself hardly belonged to reality. You also are ready to resign, if needful, but not without bitterness, while I do so with the whole treasure of my humility.
And, again, on his persisting in his reproaches for what he calls her desertion of him, with the usual sophistry of the times she explains how she never has ceased to be true to all those she loved, because her fidelity was “inward constancy,” because she knew “the eternal equilibrium of her heart.” It would be impossible to give a preciser formula to the universal creed of that period, that religion of the heart, that reverence for the dictates of feeling, that Ecclesia invisibilis of sentiment. “I trust implicitly to my heart, were it to lead me to death and misery. This is my immediate science. I know this certitude to be certain; were this security ever to break |567| down within me, it would be my end; nothingness would ensue.” Thus does she cling to her idea of becoming a mother to her beloved one, and, like a true mother, incites him to active employment. “Here you are again on the battle-field, dear Achilles; and already the Trojans are in flight,” she writes him when he at last plucks up courage to recommence his lectures, at the time Friedrich Schlegel was making his first appearance as a lecturer also — an attempt which was to prove a signal failure. On this occasion the delicate, refined woman, usually so remarkable for her moderation and good taste, becomes utterly unrecognisable in her ecstasies of wild triumph. Love and interest in the object of it did for her what self-interest never would have accomplished; they made her coarse and violent from sheer vehemence of feeling.
Like a good mother, she also takes bodily care of her charge; she sends to London for a great-coat (in 1800!) instead of his German cloak, to keep him warm, and “leave his arms free to embrace her.” For they are soon to meet again after this long, long winter (1800 to 1801), and in this hope Caroline revives.
Her husband, who had spent great part of the winter at Brunswick with her, had left for Berlin, and did not join her again at Jena. Her connection with Schelling was no secret to him, and, as he followed the moral creed of his generation, he found it quite natural; the more so, perhaps, as his own affection for Caroline had arrived at a sufficiently low ebb to allow him to view things calmly and collectedly. With the singular frankness peculiar to these times, Caroline had declared her intention of not ceasing to see her friend at Jena.
I shall never be able to give up Schelling; but I will never go beyond a certain limit upon which we have agreed. . . . I have adopted him in my soul as the brother of my child. . . . Precisely because there is nothing secret about it — for secrecy would be accusation — all will take a different appearance, firstly, in our eyes; and then this security will communicate itself to our entourage. Therefore I think I may safely go back to Jena. (6th of March, 1801).
It was naturally to be expected that she should encounter new storms on her arrival there with all her projects of maternal resignation. Her health was shaken. “Caroline has always something the matter with her,” writes her husband, “the least thing shows how weak she is.” Still the tone of their correspondence is quite friendly on both sides at the beginning. Wilhelm had been greatly attached to little Augusta, and respected the mother’s grief at her loss. Caroline, on her side, felt more than mere gratitude for Wilhelm, he was more even than a comrade to her; she esteemed him as he deserved to be esteemed, and never ceased defending him against all his assailants. On his being reproached with want of sincerity, she says, “If anyone ever was irreproachable in this respect it was Schlegel, and I am quite distressed to see him so badly rewarded for it. . . . |568| He does not care to be insincere, and is more honest than all of you put together.” Nevertheless by degrees Wilhelm’s letters become scarcer, he only half answers Caroline’s constant pressing invitations to Jena, or offers to join him at Berlin; evidently he is on the search for pretexts. Had he really found more powerful attractions at the Prussian capital as it was reported? Caroline ridicules these reports. On being informed that pretty Madame Unzelmann, the most admired actress in Berlin, is about to be divorced in order to marry August Wilhelm, she laughs at “the little fairy Unzeline,” and threatens to “arrive in time to prevent the conjunction of the two luminaries,” and when she hears that her husband is unusually attentive to Madame Bernhardi, Tieck’s sister, she advises him to cultivate this acquaintance. It is clear that she was free from all prejudice. Still the tone of August Wilhelm’s letters becomes more and more disagreeable, and as we already know that her friendship with Schelling was a matter of perfect indifference to him, there is every reason to believe that he was seeking a plausible pretext for regaining his liberty. Caroline continues indefatigable in her efforts to keep him in good humour; but it seems that she sometimes received serious rebuffs, to one of which she answers: “You take away a great deal of my simplicity and grace by intimidating me in this way, and you lose most by it.” “If any more naughty letters come, I shall not answer them until a nice one appears.” Never had she been more amiable, more caressingly friendly; never did she bring all the resources of fraternal coquetry better into play, for the tone of these charming letters never goes beyond this mark. Still what deep interest she takes in his literary pursuits! She goes to Weimar on purpose to be present at the first representation of his Ion; she sits on the commoners’ side of the theatre, of course, for at that time, even in Weimar, the nobility sat on one side and the burghers on the other, as there were bourgeois and noble evening parties. She espouses the author’s cause to a vehement extent; she writes a review of the piece in the Elegante Zeitung, which, however favourable it might seem to others less interested, did not satisfy the vulnerable self-esteem of August Wilhelm Schlegel, who finds it, “Pretty and clever, but not at all to his taste.” She sides entirely with Göthe “the invisible Apollo,” who is the soul of the enterprise, and who is accused of tyranny for striking Schlegel’s adversaries. She even returns to Weimar to ensure success to the Ehrenpforte, a satirical piece of doubtful taste, which her husband had directed against Kotzebue and his set. When he opened at Berlin his course of lectures upon dramatic literature [12a] — his most substantial title to glory after his translation of Shakespeare — she is quite proud of him and his success. She encourages him in all ways — |569| “At the hour when you are holding forth I am always especially near to you. Would that blue-eyed Caroline could only once in her life be changed into blue-eyed Minerva, and stand invisible by your side, placing divine discourse on your lips! As you are already charmingly perfumed and adorned, I should not be wanted in that direction, like that goddess.”
Nothing, however, had the power to re-establish the lost harmony between them. Wilhelm continued silent and morose in spite of all her pretty womanly devices. When at length he makes up his mind to visit Jena, he leaves it again immediately, to follow the constellations which are his attractions at Berlin, and his answers grow colder and colder. In vain she redoubles in grace and amiability during this winter, from 1801 to 1802, and shows herself attentive, ready to forgive and forget. Wilhelm never spares her a single pin-prick, his susceptibility towards her becomes almost offensive.
We have hardly any of his letters written about this time, but hers are full of nothing but apologies and justifications in answer to petty unjust accusations. At last, unable to bear it any longer, she went herself to Berlin (April, 1802) to view the situation with her own eyes. There must have been some explanation here between them, for she left Berlin after a very few days, having obtained his consent to a divorce. To avoid delay and publicity they resolved to apply directly to Karl August, who two years before had dissolved the union of Sophie Méreau, afterwards Clemens Brentano’s wife, without the intervention of justice. Caroline herself penned a letter to the Duke full of dignity and noble feeling; yet in spite of all these precautions, reports got about, and the calumnious insinuations which had circulated at the time of Augusta’s death again let themselves be heard. Caroline treated all this ignominious gossip with the disdain it deserved; but Schlegel thought himself obliged to refute the calumnies which she despised, and on regaining his own liberty once more became the delicate and devoted friend he had formerly been to her. As to the world’s opinion concerning their grave decision, Caroline cares no more about it than before. She is conscious of having done what, in her eyes, is “right and true,” and does not trouble herself about “the external appearances of what is good in itself.”
She never attempted, though, as so many women similarly situated do, to hold up her own case as an example to be imitated, and to make her own line of conduct a principle. “Those who see me will hardly feel inclined to venture upon unknown ground by bold and arbitrary proceedings; and will rather pray to Heaven to give them a simple fate, engaging themselves never to violate it,” she writes to a young female friend, who was one day to be her successor in Schelling’s heart and home. [12b] The divorce was not pronounced till the 17th of |570| May, 1803, and a month afterwards Schelling’s father married his son and Caroline in his little village church, the husband at that time being twenty-eight and the wife forty. In spite of so great a disparity in their age, not a cloud arose during the whole of the six years their union lasted. That peace and serenity of mind to which she had referred, already seem to pervade the close of her life. Her last years resemble the catharsis of a troubled drama, and her poor wearied heart seems to enjoy tranquillity after so restless an existence. She bids farewell to literature, and abjures all literary passions. She even almost gives up letter-writing, and those letters which she still consents to pen breathe forth the most complete contentment. She has sacrificed her love of liberty to the man she loves, and whom she looks up to as a superior being. She, the passionate reader of old, now scarcely opens a book, “but then I have a prophet in my companion who communicates the Word of God direct to me.” No remorse came to disturb her happiness, for was she not conscious of having obeyed the dictates of her own heart, and of never having deceived anyone? In her belief “there is but one vice, and that is untruth, and the Devil is its father.” This is the reason why she never condescended to exculpate or defend herself. On again meeting with her old friend Theresa Heyne, now Frau Huber, who is for ever making her own apology, “I cannot understand,” she says, “how people can want to open their lips to the world at large, and gratuitously call forth a kind of publicity which has always something disgraceful in it.” Was she wrong, or was she right? At any rate this remarkable woman, so greatly calumniated by her contemporaries, has lost nothing in the estimation of posterity by having constantly and consciously braved appearances. For in this very correspondence, come to light sixty years after the heroine’s death, bearing an essentially private character, and the publication of which it was impossible to foresee, lies just the very sort of justification and satisfaction which, of all others would have suited Caroline best, and the only one she would have wished for.
The pair after their marriage settled at Würzburg, a town recently secularised and incorporated in the Electorate of Bavaria, where the new government had recently established an university. Her sojourn in the capital of the ex-Prince-Bishop was the golden age of happiness for Caroline. The pin-pricks of envious gossips, which pursued her even here, had quite lost all power of irritating her. Full of a calm dignity she soars aloft, leaving far below her the petty surrounding atmosphere. She begins to adopt certain aristocratic airs which suit her prodigiously; you would say she had been accustomed to purple and ermine from her cradle, and it is precisely this which the malice of the virtuous could never forgive her. Her gracefulness and elegance scandalize the homely and orderly women |571| of the middle classes, who regarded the emancipated world of artists, literati, and philosophers associating with nobles on a perfect equality of footing, with a good deal more envy than indignation. Caroline, with her infallible guide by her side, gives no heed to anything of this kind.
Politics, which had formerly so great an interest for her, have now lost all their charm, like literature. She no longer sees anything in them beyond the accidental, external history of mankind; true history, for her, lies elsewhere. Up to the end of the former century she had still kept the remains of her revolutionary sympathies. “Buonaparte is in Paris,” she wrote to her little daughter in May, 1799. “Oh, my dear child, only think that all is right again. The Russians have been driven out of Switzerland, the English are obliged to make a shameful capitulation in Holland, and here is Buonaparte back again to fill up the measure. Rejoice, I intreat you.” Her Buonapartist enthusiasm is not destroyed by the 18th of Brumaire, and Marengo appears to have revived it entirely. On seeing Louis Buonaparte at the Brunswick theatre, she still writes,” I have seen with my own eyes some of that noble blood.” Yet even at that time the coarse realities of politics and warfare had shocked her as soon as she had come into anything like close contact with them; and after seeing the conquerors of the world with her own eyes, she sighed for Thuringia’s Athenians. By degrees her enthusiasm for the hero calms down, and gives way to a very different feeling. She looks forward to a Thirty Years’ War just before Austerlitz; for after all “a nation, a sovereign, will yet be found to rise up against the all-devouring one.” When the French march into Würzburg, she says: “This Napoleon crops up one country after another with his sharp teeth, and after that throws them to the monarch he patronises — he, the king of kings, whose neck may it please the Lord of Lords presently to break.” She and her learned husband turn speedily away with disgust from contemporary history, full of nothing but “pillage and burning.” On learning the late of their friend Hegel, whose house had been ransacked, like that of so many others at Jena, “That is just where the evil lies,” cries Caroline. “To think that even the quietest, most harmless existence is no longer secure. . . . Whosoever belongs to a state is liable to be shaken, and often to be pulled up by the roots.” We can trace in the heart of this woman the progress of the German national mind. Patriotism is aroused even in her bosom by the disgrace of Jena. She is reading the history of the Seven Years’ War during those days of mourning. “That was indeed a different struggle. How often did all appear irreparably lost, then again saved by the spirit which was imperishable!” Not so in 1806 and 1807.
|572| “I would rather,” she writes, after these disasters, “I would rather have lived in a village which lay on the line of the battle of Jena, and been crushed in the dust, than ever allow myself to be infected by this horrible confusion of all moral things. But then I am very happy in having my aegis by my side; for if, on the one hand, the conventional world is fast dying out with all its antiquated forms, on the other a different, unchangeable world is rising from a finer horizon before my eyes.”
The destiny of the German people had to be fulfilled, and Germany had, like Dante, to descend to the very lowest depths before remounting again to “view the stars once more” (per riveder le stelle). Implacable fate appeared to Caroline, as well as to all her contemporaries, under the features of Napoleon. “For me, he never was anything but destiny personified, which I neither love nor hate, but at whose hands I await the guidance of the world.”
Germany’s political transformation exercised a direct influence besides over the fate of Schelling and his wife.
Shortly after the instalment of the elector-king at Würzburg, a scene described by Caroline with charming irony and a delicious humour, the philosopher was called to Munich, where those attempts at civilising ancient Bavaria were beginning to be made which we can still witness in our own days. Caroline was alarmed as much as amused with the state of intellectual culture in which she found her new place of residence. The bare names of Lessing and Göthe were, indeed, hardly known in Munich society. The amusements of the best company there were primitive in their simplicity, the naiveté of which would make her laugh, were it not that its coarseness is such as to revolt the delicate tastes of this northern plant. The only man who apparently belonged to his age and his country, though transplanted to this inclement soil, was Jacobi, always the same “good, honest, but at the bottom vain,” individual whom Göthe knew thirty years earlier at Pempelfort, “finding it convenient to have less wits and more complaisance than formerly” in that material world to which he had allowed himself to be attracted, letting himself be spoilt and petted by his two crabbed old-maid sisters.
If Caroline made but few new acquaintances, she came across a good many of her old friends in time, and not only met again with Theresa, but with her comrades of 1797 and 1798, the chiefs and champions of romanticism. The Tiecks and Brentanos passed through Munich on their return from a pilgrimage to Rome, and related the words and deeds of those among their brethren whom they had left behind them in the Eternal City. From their description, these Germans living in Rome had run themselves into a perfectly “inextricable chaos of intrigues, folly, and adventures.” [Wilhelm von] Humboldt was at that time Prussian minister at Rome, and it may be easily imagined that neither he nor his wife entered into the extravagant eccentricities of |573| the romantic set. There existed indeed, two distinct factions — “the Pagan and Christian party,” in which ladies played a very prominent part, Madame de Humboldt having declared herself in favour of the goddess Venus, while Madame Bernhardi (Tieck’s sister) adhered to “the Virgin Mary.” “It is true,” Caroline maliciously adds, “the beauty of the one and the purity of mind of the other counterbalance each other pretty nearly. . . . The piety and sanctity of all this parish is little more than mere form and outward manner. In the best of them (L. Tieck, for instance) they must only be taken in a poetical sense.” It was reported that the Tiecks had gone over to Catholicism, as Friedrich and Dorothea Schlegel, Zacharias Werner, and so many others were about to do. In Caroline’s eyes this fact has but small importance. It would be but a form more, for in the main L. Tieck, the best and cleverest of the whole set, would remain what he was before, “a graceful, respectable vagabond.” His sister, the Roman Madonna, had also returned to Germany, to plead in the divorce court against Bernhardi, for she was about to marry Herr von Knorring, another devotee; and the whole family, accompanied by Zacharias Werner, the pious renegade, gave themselves highly political airs. They pretended to see the salvation both of Germany and Christendom in the house of Hapsburg; but, as Caroline observes with her usual clear perception and good sense, “all these hopes, beliefs, and loves must be taken in a merely allegorical sense; for in reality they care very little about the powers above or the world below, provided they lead a jolly life, and have their purses well filled. I never saw people less pious or less resigned to the will of heaven than these. . . . These three brothers and their sister [“These three siblings”; editor], each one possessing eminent talents, born in an artisan’s hut among the sands of the Mark of Brandenburg, might form a splendid phenomenon, were it not for an immorality corruptive both of body and soul, and an entire want of religious feeling;” and in a very cutting sonnet, which of course remained unpublished, she ridiculed the whole school, which had become a brotherhood.
These tendencies and the tone of this set had become so general, that even young recruits, such as the Baron von Rumohr — the greatest art critic, by the way, whom Germany has brought forth in this century — adopted them. “I know of no more distressing sight than this baron without the smallest dignity. He did intend to settle here, to leave all his terrestrial goods, and to follow Christ; but I think he will soon take wing again, for there is no seafish to be had at Munich, and he does not like our cookery. . . . What a pity that he should be so unreasonable, so tiresome, and play the fool to such a degree; for heaven has bestowed upon him one sense — that of art, which no one else has in the same degree. It is true that the sense of eating and drinking is equally strongly developed in him, |574| and that he never allows his culinary opinions to be disputed. But it is very disgusting to hear a man talk in exactly the same strain of a lobster and of a Madonna and Child.” This singular mixture of sensuality and devotion, which formed the chief characteristic of Friedrich Schlegel himself, the head of the romantic school, seems to have communicated itself likewise to his followers. Zacharias Werner had it in the highest degree, nor were the Brentanos by any means free from it. They also came to Munich during the winter of 1808–9; Savigny, already famous as a writer, and brother-in-law to Clemens; Clemens himself, whom Caroline had nicknamed “Demens,” with the young wife who carried him off — she whom he had carried off six years before having since died; finally, Bettina, “looking like a little Berlin Jewess, and racking her brain for wit. Not that she is by any means wanting in intelligence; tout an contraire. But it is so sad to see how she strains, distends, and distorts that which she has.” “All these Brentanos,” she again says, “are such thoroughly unnatural natures!” Nevertheless, Bettina was, of all the Brentano set, the one least distasteful to Caroline. She even likes the crazy pilgrim,  in spite of all her freaks and eccentricities:
“She is a strange little creature,” she writes; “a real Bettina,  by bodily suppleness and flexibility; inwardly sensible, outwardly crazy; decent and yet beyond all decency. Unfortunately she suffers from the family disease of the Brentanos; she is not quite natural in what she is or does, and still she cannot be otherwise; however, she pleases me better than the others.” She had come to take care of Tieck, already gouty, although but thirty-four, and the gossip to which this juvenile sick-nurse gave rise may be easily imagined. She stood on no ceremony whatever with him:
Coquetting with her invalid charge in word and gesture, using the familiar thou, kissing him, and then again harshly telling him unpleasant truths; for she has her eyes wide open to his failings, and is not in love with him.
She passes whole days in his company quite alone, and several persons are afraid of going there on account of her; for she does not always succeed in being witty, and can at times become coarse and disagreeable. She is, moreover, oftener to be found under than upon the table, and never by any chance upon a chair. You are, I daresay, curious after all this to know whether she be young and pretty; but there lies the point. She is neither young nor old. neither pretty nor ugly; she looks neither like a man nor a woman.
Before her end Caroline was to see some one again who had stood far nearer to her than the Tiecks and Brentanos, and all the rest. Madame de Staël and Benjamin Constant came to spend a fortnight at Munich, accompanied by August Wilhelm Schlegel. “He was well and cheerful, and our intercourse was quite friendly and entirely without embarrassment. He and Schelling were inseparable.”
|575| Caroline allowed neither B. Constant nor Madame de Staël to impose upon her; she saw that the first understood nothing about German poetry, and could only appreciate the moral side of her countrymen. His companion seemed to her “a phenomenon of vital power, selfishness, and incessant intellectual activity. Her exterior is transfigured by her interior, and has great need of it, for there are moments, or rather dresses, in which she looks like a sutler, and in which, nevertheless, one can quite well imagine her capable of representing Phaedra in the most elevated tragical sense.” No jealousy whatever appears to have dictated this judgment, for Caroline is quite ready to acknowledge that Schlegel owes more to the petulant Frenchwoman than she to him. In the midst of this false Catholicism of the romantic school “Wilhelm remains Protestant under his own shield, or rather that of his Pallas, . . . for after all he is the purest of them all. . . . Alas! how they have erred from the right road, and how they have allowed themselves to be led astray by destinies which they have prepared for themselves.” This last remark is especially addressed to Friedrich Schlegel, just then at Vienna enjoying Alicante and biscuits, as, ten years previously, he had appreciated liqueurs and sausages at Berlin. He also had gone over to the house of Austria and to the Catholic Church at the same time, and showed a strong disposition to “become a persecutor of heretics. They say he is already as fat, lazy, and sensual as a monk. . . . I knew them all in better times in the age of their innocence. Then came discord and sin. . . . How firm he has remained, relying on himself; how good, open, childlike, and entirely dignified that friend (alluding to her husband, Schelling) whom I need not name.”
Let us end with these words which are the chorus of all Caroline’s letters concerning him who, during the time of her happiness, had “melted all her existence in sweetness.” This feeling was not to last long. She died almost suddenly on a journey in Würtemberg, where she was going to pay a visit to Schelling’s aged parents. The same disease which had carried off her child nine years before put an end to her own life on the 7th of September, 1809, at the age of forty-six. As she had foreseen and prophesied, she “closed her eyes in peace and serenity of mind.”
In the beginning of this essay I quoted those words of grief and passionate admiration which escaped Schelling’s lips a few weeks after losing “this singular being, whose equal will not appear again on earth.” He remained true to this feeling, and more than ten years afterwards, when the daughter of that Louise Gotter, who had been Caroline’s oldest and best friend, again gave him pure domestic happiness, he evidently still had before him the image of the wife of his youth when he exclaims in his Platonic dialogue, Clara, “Let me recall to mind the transfigured friend who was my life’s guardian angel; let me remember how, at the approach of the Shadow of |576| Death, a celestial radiance illuminated her whole being to such a degree that I thought I had never seen her more beautiful than at the very moment when she was about to breathe her last, nor even imagined that death could present so much grace. Let me remember how her accents, at all times melodious, became divine music, spiritual sounds which even now resound in the depths of my heart.”
Caroline was not the only superior woman of those times whose life presents a tissue of romantic vicissitudes, errors, and grand sides. On her track we have already met with the daughters of Heyne and Moses Mendelssohn. If we wished to widen our range how many others besides, such as Charlotte von Kalb, Caroline von Wolzogen, Sophie Méreau, Emilie von Berlepsch, Frau von Knorring, and Madame de Krudner, would have to be placed within it, as forming inherent parts of the literary society of that memorable period! Yet we should be mistaken were we to judge of the general morality of their age by their example; for in this Germany presents an analogous spectacle to France, England, and Italy during their greatest literary periods. The higher classes sought eagerly to free themselves from the trammels of a social order, to which the middle ranks still scrupulously adhered. The world of art and literature was essentially addressed to the higher orders of society, adopted and cherished by them, and partook of their social privileges and “freedom from all prejudice.” There is much said about the corruption of France under Louis XV., and of England under Charles II.; if we look at things somewhat closer, however, we may detect here, as elsewhere, below a licentious court, nobility, and literary coterie, an orderly, steady, and even pious middle class. Thus beside and below the free society of Berlin and Weimar, an honest, laborious class of citizens existed, who, incapable of comprehending what was going on above them, were only too ready to look upon all this set as a species of gipsy company devoid of all principles, and to censure its freaks and immorality with a species of equivocal charity only to be found among the virtuous. It would be a great error were we to suppose that the high intellectual culture of Weimar penetrated to the mass of the nation or even to the middle classes. An abyss separated the two worlds, and a bourgeoisie which devoutly crossed itself at the bare mention of Wilhelm Meister’s wild associates and at the thought of the subversive principles of the Elective Affinities, when it did not content itself with the Bible and Gellert’s fables, read the novels of August Lafontaine. It always has been so; Raphael and Shakespeare were not more moral in the bourgeois sense of the word than Diderot and Göthe.
 Footnotes by Hillebrand unless otherwise noted. — Pagination according to the Fortnightly Review. The article was also published slightly altered in Every Saturday. A journal of choice reading (1872) vol. 1, issue 18 (480–87); 22 (606–11); 23 (624–29). Hillebrand lists the following sources: Caroline. Briefe an ihre Geschwister, ihre Tochter Auguste, die Familie Gotter, F. L. W. Meyer, A. W. and Fr. Schlegel, J. Schelling u. a. nebst Briefen von A. W. and Fr. Schlegel u. a., 2 vols., ed. G. Waitz (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1871); Aus Schelling’s Leben. In Briefen, 3 vols., ed. J. L. Plitt (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1869); Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule. Ein Beitrag zur geschichte des deutschen Geistes (Berlin: Gärtner, 1870); idem, “Ein deutsches Frauenleben aus der Zeit unserer Litteraturblüthe,” Preussische Jahrbücher 28 (1871) 457–506. Back.
 I have alluded to her far too lightly myself in my studies on “Berlin Society” at the time of the Revolution (see Revue des Deux Mondes, 1870, II. p. 473), when saying of August Wilhelm Schlegel that “he had married the charming and greatly admired daughter of Michaelis;” that “the ménage was disturbed by misunderstandings;” that “August Wilhelm separated from his young wife in order to leave her at liberty to bestow her hand upon the illustrious Schelling;” and finally, at p. 486 of the same essay, that “the first husband continued in intimate connection with the second.” There is nothing positively inaccurate in all this; still the note is false, nor could it be otherwise in a work which was written in January, 1870. Back.
dressed as Hymen, with a basket of flowers in his hand, which he scattered before us as he led the way to an arbour opposite where a throne of moss and flowers had been erected, with steps up to it, with a canopy, a triumphal arch, and a thousand other pretty things. A singer and harp-player had been placed behind some bushes; when we were seated they began to sing:Love which inflames this couple; and On a throne of flowers they find Ever the heart of being happy.
Heaven knows what my feelings were when I fell into Böhmer’s arms. These worthy folks’ affection impressed upon me anew the obligation of being virtuous.
And so on for three consecutive pages, blotted with sacred tears. Back.
 Göthe, “Hermann and Dorothea.” — Clio. Back.
 Caroline was not wrong. The recent researches of [Eduard] Boas [Schiller und Goethe im Xenienkampf, 2 vols. (Stuttgart, Tübingen 1851], Bernays [“Friedrich Schlegel und die Xenien,” Schriften zur Kritik und Litteraturgeschichte, 4 vols. (Berlin 1898–99) 2:225–81], and Haym, had already led to the same result before her correspondence was published. Back.
 This alludes not to the future second wife [Sophie Paulus] of A. W. Schlegel, but to her mother [Karoline Paulus], still youthful then. [Editor’s note: see the supplementary appendix on Karoline Paulus’s reputation.] Back.
[12a] Ed. note: Hillebrand seems to be thinking of Wilhelm’s later Über dramatische Kunst und Litteratur. Vorlesungen, 3 vols. (Heidelberg 1809–11) delivered in Vienna rather than the Vorlesungen über schöne Literatur und Kunst delivered in Berlin during 1801–4. Back.
Translation © 2011 Doug Stott