Erich Schmidt 1913 Introduction

Erich Schmidt
Introduction to the 1913 Edition
of Caroline’s Correspondence [*]

|v| With respect to German literary history, the year 1870 stood under the auspices of Romanticism with the publication of two extremely different masterpieces: Wilhelm Dilthey’s Leben Schleiermachers and Rudolf Haym’s Romantische Schule. [1] The extensive collection of letters that would forever bring to life the name Caroline followed immediately thereafter, and just prior to that publication, Schelling’s life, too, had been illuminated by the appearance of a rich correspondence. In addition to his own considerable accomplishments as a historian, Georg Waitz, the philosopher’s [Schelling’s] son-in-law, also engaged in years of devoted research as a change of pace that ultimately would benefit and delight countless readers by bringing to light from the family’s literary estate and other sources an undreamt-of documentary treasure associated with the erstwhile partner of A. W. Schlegel and Schelling. [2] These documents brought to life a rare German epistolary artist, an extremely fascinating woman whose lot in life was to elicit both enthusiasm and aversion far beyond her own lifetime.

Caroline’s (1763–1809) father was the famous Near Eastern specialist Johann David Michaelis in Göttingen, a leading Old Testament scholar and extraordinary polyhistorian, a versatile writer, albeit lacking formal charm, and, during his most energetic, mature years, also an organizationally gifted university lecturer. He was, however, a man whose difficult personality gradually left him isolated among his colleagues, prompting his |vi| sympathetic daughter occasionally to bemoan how diminished his life had become during his later years. Her mother, a fussy, timid woman who later was unable to overcome her shyness toward the “excessively witty” Jena circle, was emotionally distant from Caroline and, moreover, unable to manage her other children, among them especially hot-blooded Lotte. The family did not enjoy much in the way of domestic peace and stability. We find Caroline moved by the stirrings of early love and, quite without personal culpability, also subject to slanderous gossip as a result, which she countered with immature moralization and pious indignation. Although the young girl alternated between backbiting and rapturous enthusiasm, she soon came to reject all emotional exaggeration and yet simultaneously, despite her considerable self-confidence as the daughter of a professor at the most illustrious university [in Germany] and despite her own intelligence and her own quickly expanding education, had little use for learned women. She demonstrated her aesthetic inclinations early on and gives us a glimpse into what at the time was still a rather limited Goethe cult, a cult that rather than becoming obsessed solely with Die Leiden des jungen Werthers had already embraced, far ahead of its sluggish contemporaries, the clear artistic production of the Weimar Goethe. Thus was she able to follow his continued literary development without distraction and was able to comprehend the entire Goethe without interruption. By contrast, after her initial disinclination toward the rough works of Schiller’s youth and after personal quarrels with him as well, she found it impossible to find any genuinely empathetic access to the latter’s subsequent literary development.

This young woman, in need of stimulation and communication and thirsting for both art and love, was exiled for years to the wasteland of the bleak village of Clausthal in the Harz Mountains at the side of an upright but average man with whom she at most might “flirt” but with regard to whom her letters never utter a single word of deeper affection. She tried to spice up her boredom with voluminous reading ranging from light novels to the masterpieces of both older and more recent periods, and the birth of two daughters brought her considerable |vii| maternal joy. Widowed at a young age, she returned to Göttingen, where she became consumed with passion for the clever but cold courtier Georg Tatter and where for a lengthy period an old acquaintance, the writer F. L. W. Meyer, became her untrustworthy confidante. In Marburg, where her half brother was living — whom she once idolized — she lost her youngest daughter, while Gustel was blossoming into an increasingly charming child. Caroline herself, however, found little satisfaction living here, and not even Gotha, where one of her lifelong friends lived, could catch her fancy, though this “godless little woman” and “coquettish young widow” was courted by the general superintendent himself! But new domestic strictures that would only have taken care of her and her precious child in a practical sense was not part of “every possible happiness,” an expression evoked by her rather dangerous assertion that sufficiency alone could never make her happy. Her cloak of love, as she put it, was as broad as the heart and sense of the beautiful. Seeking the means to a freer, richer existence only within herself, and resolved “to be happy in defiance of gods and human beings,” Caroline moved to Mainz in 1792, where she had already once visited the ill-matched Forster couple. She was initially restricted solely to the Forster’s own household, where she was Georg’s loyal friend and was privy to the crumbling marriage between him and the clever, energetic friend of her youth, Therese, daughter of the Göttingen philologist Heyne. Quite unlike Caroline, Therese self-righteously maintained the semblance of legal correctness while preferring to take an insignificant man as a lover rather than stay with her bright but weak spouse, then ultimately supporting her family by means of tenacious but utilitarian writing. As the two women carefully observed each other, Therese’s earlier prejudices toward Caroline increasingly developed from adversarial hostility into boundless hatred. Whereas Therese chose to flee the increasingly perilous situation, however, Caroline was carried away by her own yearning for freedom, yearning that had been bottled up during long years of a relatively inactive life, |viii| and by her own sensuality. Although the result was that she stumbled and did indeed ultimately fall, she did so only to lift herself up again out of humiliation by means of the wondrous, elevating vitality of her own being. The aforementioned Tatter had in the meantime pushed her away. “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.” What then occurred was that obscure episode in which Caroline, though indeed feeling torn from her normal sphere by an incomprehensible fate, nonetheless did not feel she had forfeited the virtues of domestic tranquility or sunk to the level of an adventuress. Alongside Forster, who had blindly committed himself to the French Revolution, she had for a time herself become intoxicated with the notion of liberty, had joined in the Mainz Clubbists, themselves inclined to foreign sympathizing, and in the heady, sensual intoxication of a night of dancing had given herself to an extremely young officer. This love affair, shunning the light of day, perhaps a mere single hour of forgetful oblivion, now threatened to ruin her. For as a result of a series of careless decisions, she was incarcerated by the Prussians as an enemy sympathizer along with several other women. Then, at the fortress Königstein and under the most horrible circumstances, she discovered she was pregnant. She firmly resolved to commit suicide were her imprisonment not to end before a certain time, something she expressed in wrenching letters that were unfortunately destroyed but which even Caroline’s adversary [Therese Forster] could not help admiring. It was especially her brother Philipp who managed to secure her release from the ensuing imprisonment in Kronberg. At the same time, Wilhelm Schlegel, as both rescuer and shining knight, put himself at her service with his characteristic and considerable willingness to make personal sacrifice on her behalf. Despite the repeated, cool rejection his love had elicited in her both in Göttingen and during a visit in Marburg, love he had also expressed in poetry, he nonetheless left behind a Dutch beauty |ix| and hastened from Amsterdam to Caroline’s aid. In her own turn, Caroline, who had once laughed at the notion of herself and Schlegel as a couple, now could not but be profoundly grateful that the man whom she once scorned had secured for her a hidden asylum near Altenburg. Caroline devoted all her maternal love to the baby boy after his birth, albeit amid an atmosphere of illegitimate secrecy and the constant danger of being discovered. In any event, Caroline now blossomed anew in both body and soul. Indeed, Friedrich Schlegel, whom Wilhelm had enlisted as her assistant and who faithfully reported everything to him, seems himself to have struggled against a nascent passion for this most singular woman whose letters had already provided a veritable course of study for him from a distance and whom he now viewed as the embodiment of his ideal of the independent “Doric” woman. Her melodious voice, especially when reading Goethe aloud, was music to his ears, and her judgment a revelation for his obstinately self-directed spirit. One section of his novel Lucinde uses the most sublime words to express what Caroline’s closer acquaintance meant to this brilliantly gifted renegade, who at the time was caught up in grandiose plans of becoming the Winckelmann of ancient poesy and philosophy. Yet he was mistaken when he took her gratitude toward Wilhelm, his brotherly benefactor, as evidence that she was “colossally in love”; for it was without passion and only after vehemently considering various plans to flee afar from the world that Caroline, whose mother was also pushing her into a second marriage, took what for both parties was a horribly misguided step and married the younger man. Her new spouse, who had already rendered immeasurable service to her, was to rehabilitate her before a world that not only looked quite askance at her but had even taken official steps to ostracize “Madam Citizen Böhmer,” and was to be a reliable pillar of support for her and Auguste. Although August Wilhelm Schlegel had already completed a thorough course of university study in historical philology and aesthetics, was already at the height of his |x| powers as an epochal translator, and could probably already be considered a master of literary reviews and essayistic characterization, his otherwise noble, humane characteristics were impeded by vanity, an inclination to pedantry, and a weak will. This “non-man” never genuinely managed to impress her.

In any event, in the summer of 1796 the wife of Professor Schlegel moved from Braunschweig to Jena, where during the next few years she became the center of the Romantic circle that gradually formed around her. She accomplished this as much through the charm of her spirited conversation, which could access every nuance of both seriousness and mischief, enthusiasm and incisiveness, as through her confident domestic skills.

Goethe, who had always — and quite without cliché — been her god, maintained a measure of personal reserve of the sort he willingly relinquished, at least within this circle, only with Schelling. He did, however, make use of Wilhelm’s formal literary training and certainly also took some satisfaction in seeing the leaders of this young generation going into battle on behalf of his own creations and inclinations, which had indeed been waiting for proper resonance, and he was happy to witness their engagement even while noticing that this particular brand of modern criticism did not really seem able to articulate its own positions or to do battle without an accompanying element of paradox and noisy provocation. With Schiller, who had a straightforward but short, quick path to traverse in his life and who insisted on unequivocal, upright relationships, things quickly went sour after an initial period of cordiality. In this matter, Caroline acted insincerely and then with unequivocal ill will, agitating others against the writer and aesthetician: first her brother-in-law, whom Schiller had rejected with rather peremptory abruptness and who had initially entered into the relationship quite naively, and also her spouse, who at least externally was still trying to maneuver through the crisis. It was certainly through no lack of effort on her part that the envisioned grand “annihilation,” as impotent as it would have been in any case, never came about. In any event, her hostility was amply compensated in Schiller’s own household, where on the model of a malicious marital invective made by the regent Philipp of Orleans, she became known as “Dame Lucifer” and “the |xi| Malady.” [3] Indeed, from the very outset no genuinely cordial relationship was even really possible between the — in the best and worst sense — emancipated Romantic, on the one hand, and Frau Lotte, on the other, who had acquired the nickname “Madam Decency” because she — the “Dignity of Women” — was constantly asking: “Is that proper?” And yet despite her prejudice, Caroline does offer several quite legitimate and accurate literary judgments even amid her more malicious comments regarding Schiller’s dramas, and her profound faith in the eternal nature of art — which, as she puts it, will be among the last things to enter into God’s house in the final world conflagration — is splendidly attested in both broader and more particular utterances. Can Goethe’s relationship with the half-poet of Tancred be articulated more delightfully than in Caroline’s comparison according to which he puts Voltaire to music the way Mozart does Schikaneder? And even though she does speak quite harshly about the siblings Clemens and Bettina, she is nonetheless able to consider both the strengths and the weaknesses of the seething novel written by the young Brentano. Nor does her clear gaze fail to detect the calculating mannerisms and pretence of much of Ludwig Tieck’s work. Even when she is on hostile terms with Friedrich Schlegel, she nonetheless fully recognizes the significance of his essay on Boccaccio and indeed would even like to see him return to his earlier, more promising Greek studies. Although she is only laboriously indulgent toward Wilhelm’s serious poetry, she fully acknowledged his satires and was prescient enough to see that his translations of Shakespeare into German, which she thought he should finish at any cost, would one day constitute the basis of his fame.

It is touching to see how Friedrich, who was long content to defer to the judgment of this women whom he so praised, encouraged her to engage in her own creative and critical writing and yet was loathe to see precisely this women enter the literary market, as if by doing so she might somehow be desecrated. It is noteworthy that, when encouraging her to become more active, he recommends precisely the epistolary form, for he was the first to perceive fully — or at least to articulate — the tremendous wealth of |xii| perspectives, moods, and melodies residing in these pages, a wealth that coalesces before our eyes in the very structure of her sentences and then develops into unerring, often vividly pictorial expressions invariably expressing vibrant, living statements. Utterly without affectation, these statements wholly lack the peacock adornment of a coquettish spirit, are borne by a lofty vitality in their more elevated moments, and yet can be unrepentantly earthy, inclined to engage in more modestly risqué remarks and then more grandly malicious ones, masterful in barbed verbal jabs and sly allusions, but also capable of straightaway annihilating criticism (e.g., against the poor wretch Huber as a critic of Romanticism). Her writing can be diplomatic, smooth, unaffectedly chatty, passionately enraged, and enthusiastically adoring. Even though she wrote in a short missive from her Clausthal days that writing was in the blood of the Michaelis children, she certainly did not come by such talent by way of her parents, nor did any of her siblings really receive any noticeable portion of such a gift.

Caroline quietly contributed with varying success to the translation of Shakespeare, issued admonishments and deleted passages in the tiresome novel Lucinde, in Athenaeum, and in various reviews, wrote a series of anonymous reviews herself, and similarly contributed descriptions of the Dresden paintings to Wilhelm’s dialogue “Die Gemählde” and literary critical characterizations to his essay on Romeo and Juliet. A. W. Schlegel himself alluded to these contributions when praising them as the accomplishments of a woman who possessed all the requisite talent for a literary career without engaging that talent independently, and when in his “Bemerkungen über Metrik: An Friedrich Schlegel,” he asks his brother: “Tell me seriously, has Goethe’s Iphigenia ever seemed monotonous to you, for example, the way Caroline reads it aloud? If so, then may God and St. Klopstock help you!.” For his own part, it was precisely the memory of this recitation that Friedrich never forgot. While thus both enjoying and on occasion contributing to these literary projects, Caroline not only additionally engaged in translation work but also composed a hitherto completely unknown story and |xiii| began, with little fictionalization, a woman’s novel that apparently was to relate in an analytical fashion vaguely concealed autobiographical elements from her parental home, her first marriage, and her love for Tatter. Whereas this small fragment was never continued, Friedrich’s own partner, Dorothea, whose sense of modesty also prompted her to maintain anonymity, not only voluntarily performed considerable literary drudgery for “Lord Friedrich of the Empty Pockets,” but also managed to send at least the basic torso of her novel Florentin to the book fair with charming dilettantism.

As far as appearance and disposition were concerned, the daughter of Moses Mendelssohn, on the one hand, and Caroline, on the other, could not be more different. On the one hand, the — if not beautiful, then at least charming — delicately formed and well-dressed woman from Göttingen with the frizzy, curly brown hair and blue eyes whose vivacious radiance was as little diminished by her slightly oblique gaze as was the fresh color of her sensual face by a few pockmarks; and, on the other, the small, unattractive Jewess who was inclined to put on weight even in her early years, a woman whose voice represented the only softer element alongside her burning black eyes and bony facial features, the latter features unmistakably identifying her ethnicity. Both women were intelligent and well-educated, Caroline being the more vivacious of the two, Dorothea possessing great inner warmth and a bit drier wit. The one looked down on her spouse with stubborn independence and a sense of superiority, while the other, as the “companion” full of humbling self-sacrifice and willingness to serve, looked up to her idol, Friedrich, who ill deserved such devotion. Living in a free alliance, the couple Friedrich Schlegel and Dorothea (whose name was Brendel Veit-Mendelssohn), moved to Jena, where for a while the Tiecks also lived — the wife, rather boring, and Ludwig not without ambiguity himself — and where Novalis also enjoyed an unenduring acquaintance with Caroline. For her part, Caroline was certainly not the one to condemn “Madame Veit” out of hand; yet precisely |xiv| because her own past was the subject of gossip to the extent it was indeed known, it was a courageous move on her part cordially to open her house to these two guests and to facilitate things for them whenever she was able. It is not without a sense of melancholy that we see the irreparable rift emerge between Caroline and her brother-in-law and the initially bright atmosphere between the two women begin to degenerate into a dark hatred that coaxes what can only be called murderous remarks from Caroline, who was certainly capable of dreadful malice in any case, and that seduced Dorothea into the most abominable untruths. Despite the considerable differences between the two, however, things would never have gotten so far if not for the greatest event in Caroline’s life: the appearance of Schelling.

On 5 October 1798, the newly appointed, special professor of philosophy, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, moved to Jena from Saxony. Although he was only twenty-three years old at the time, he was already a creative, brilliantly precocious thinker with a tremendous sense of self utterly void of petty vanity. Though he made little effort to be congenial, the intelligence, spirit, and energy of this contrary Swabian, with his stocky build, irregular facial features, and flashing bright eyes made an immediate impression both in the lecture hall and at the Schlegels’ tea table. Dorothea compared him to a young general of the French Revolution; Caroline’s own expression was “granite,” to which Friedrich responded with an unsuspecting question about where a corresponding “granitess” might be found. Schelling managed to win Goethe’s enduring favor in such a way that “the old gentleman” elevated him to the status of family friend and even planned to write a great poem on nature together with him. For just as Schelling enriched Romantic aesthetics with new and profound ideas concerning the infinite within the finite, so also was his philosophy intimately related to poesy. He possessed a much stronger poetic potential than did either of the Schlegel brothers regardless of how much more purely |xv| technical knowledge Wilhelm might possess than did his houseguest and regardless of how gladly Schelling, the new admirer of Dante, drew on the knowledge and proficiency of the head of the household. Schelling, however, was content to stop with the few, admittedly strong pieces he managed to produce rather than asking more of his own lofty dilettantism or, certainly, engaging it professionally. This youngest member of the circle remained dependent essentially only on himself, courageous, genuine, unyielding, choosing not to participate in any of the journalistic activities or attendant literary quarrels of the faction not just because of his own restless work, and yet always ready to beat to the ground those who opposed his own activities. Though one might well find him arrogant and off-putting, no one could impugn the pure, hard-as-steel character of this man who gradually revealed to Caroline all the ardor and all the sweetness of his massive being and who was destined to quell the hitherto unfulfilled yearning of this woman twelve years his senior who was superior to him in knowledge of both the world and people. Schelling maintained a cool distance from those around Caroline. An element of aversion obtained between him and Dorothea, which especially his disparaging treatment of Friedrich exacerbated. To his credit, however, Friedrich watched with fear and resentment how his weak but, precisely in that weakness, stubborn brother was shown up, and was keen on bringing about a solution to the latter’s failed marriage, something Caroline long opposed for purely practical reasons. In any event, Friedrich did make accusations that could not be substantiated and that doubtless completely missed their mark insofar as Schelling’s own character excluded any clandestine love affair of that sort. Ultimately, extremely unpleasant differences did emerge. For her own part, Dorothea blindly invented malicious gossip concerning Caroline’s alleged matchmaking plans for her half-grown daughter, Auguste, whose hidden inclinations, if such were directed at any man in the Jena circle in the first place, would have been focused only on Henrik Steffens. In any event, Auguste’s |xvi| heart-rending death in the summer of 1800 provided the impetus for finally bringing all this turmoil to an end, albeit still only after considerable time had passed.

The alleged love between Schelling and Auguste is a myth. This lovely child enjoyed her mother’s entire tenderness and though initiated at a questionably early age, nonetheless managed to maintain the harmless, pure innocence of a young girl amid the multifarious dangers attaching to that charged romantic atmosphere. She teased about with “Uncle Fritz,” who despite all his witticisms was genuinely attached to her and who went to considerable lengths with her education. Despite her mother, she was rapturously enthusiastic — as only a real teenager can be — about Max and Thekla [the young love interest in Schiller’s play Die Piccolomini, the second part of his Wallenstein trilogy, Max being the son of Octavio Piccolomini, Thekla the daughter of Wallenstein], had no use for sophomoric literary wisdom, and with the little bit of Greek she learned was nothing less than a little scholar. The only art form she pursued assiduously was her gift for singing. She could hardly bear her loving stepfather. By contrast, with Schelling her initial aloofness and shyness yielded to a cheerful camaraderie in connection with which she speaks with astonishing candor about the inclinations of her mother, whose secrets this small child had already half guessed and yet kept completely silent. Now, however, this slender, light-blonde girl was gone, and with her the last steadying support propping up a set of circumstances that in the long run were untenable in any event.

After weeks of profound grief, the Schlegels lived together in a sham marriage with Caroline’s relatives in Braunschweig, while Schelling’s letters, written from the midst of profound loneliness in Jena, breathed an almost infinite despair, conjuring even the specter of suicide should Caroline not free both him and herself. She summoned Goethe for help. Amid the most bittersweet conflict of emotions, she experienced the entire wretchedness of life, to wit, “that a smile can border on the most unspeakable distress.” An all-powerful, all-ennobling passion, one that intensifies precisely in trying |xvii| to restrain itself, now permeates her letters with the most sublime eloquence, letters the responses to which we unfortunately do not possess. We repeatedly encounter the futile vow of sacred resignation, a vow drawing from Catholicism and Hellenism a vocabulary full of religious sublimity in its attempt to hold on to the young friend like a brother of her deceased child, to be a mortal mother to Achilles, who sits brooding in his tent in anticipation of new victories — for to Caroline he is indeed a demigod as both person and thinker. She plunges into his world of ideas hoping to rediscover the serene brightness there as the true element of her soul. This much-tested woman kneels before his picture, a woman who after having traveled down so many tangled paths now senses before the one, ideal beloved that she is born for faithfulness. From this point forward, she will maintain that faithfulness with all her heart. It is moving to see how greedily and with what quick success Caroline strives to penetrate into everything Schelling thinks and creates, into the goals and paths of his philosophy, into the battles he fights, which she follows with zealous love, into his relationship with Fichte, whose lucid conceptual power, unlike Schelling’s intellect and spirit, in her opinion lacks all productive, poetic warmth. Finally it is at Schelling’s side that she believes she has fathomed the mysteries of magnetism and, thanks to him, has comprehended God’s presence in the majestic universe.

In the meantime, A. W. Schlegel, who had not really been successful in Jena as a teacher and who had fallen out with the dominant — now outdated — literary review periodical, had gone to Berlin as an itinerant preacher of Romanticism, where he was now garnering laurels as a lecturer as well as in society circles and now also courting a charming actress. Caroline returned to Jena in the spring of 1801, where everything reminded her of the late Auguste and where she faced a double reunion: with Schelling, whose presence would inevitably overwhelm any vestiges of her vow of resignation; and with |xviii| Friedrich, who encountered her fleetingly, as a stranger, and without the slightest trace of their former harmony — and whose career at the university Schelling had recently destroyed with astonishing swiftness. It is unpleasant to see how Caroline, in sometimes calmly chatty, sometimes extraordinarily manipulative or even deceitful letters to Wilhelm, tries to coax the loyalty of this “most upright” person over to her side against his own brother, whose hopelessly slipshod, messy lifestyle and whose inclination to incur debt made him particularly vulnerable to such reproach. One of Caroline’s important trump cards here is her assertion that the real evil demon behind Friedrich is the detested Dorothea, who, to be sure, did indeed contribute to the outrageous rumor that Schelling, through inappropriate intervention, was partly responsible for Auguste’s death. Caroline also engages in half-ironically intended flattery, teasing the gallant schoolmaster, composing essays on the performance of his feeble, bloodless play Ion, which, comically enough, Schlegel himself underscores in public polemic against what he considers to be her insufficient praise. His bad mood during this entire correspondence comes as no surprise. Caroline’s objections and balance sheets are petty and embarrassing. Not for a moment, however, does Caroline engage in hypocrisy concerning her love for Schelling, who in his own turn maintains a dignified position under these extremely tense circumstances and who is intent on bringing the whole situation to an end and beginning a new, liberated, peaceful life much sooner than does even Caroline herself, who keeps postponing the public break with Schlegel. The three were united once more in Berlin during the spring of 1802 before going their separate ways forever. An agreement was reached to end this non-marriage and, with Goethe’s cordial assistance, the divorce finally came about. Much too late, Caroline remarked that “Schlegel should never have been anything but my friend, just as he indeed was in so upright, often so noble a fashion.” Pure happiness, however, did not come too late for this woman of fragile health who was now no longer young.

|xix| Schelling resigned his professorship in Jena, his enthusiasm also having been polluted by the most shameful, despicable quarrels in the press, and traveled with Caroline to his parents’ Swabian parsonage. Although he had planned to embark on a lengthy journey to Italy with Caroline as his wife, the trip never materialized. With wise kindness and charm, Caroline won the hearts of all her beloved’s family and remained on untroubled, increasingly cordial terms with them. The couple’s years in Würzburg and Munich up to 1809, despite various external difficulties, remained a time of fulfilled and gratefully acknowledged happiness, a time transfigured by Schelling’s “gentle, magnificent disposition.” Caroline now became completely absorbed in Schelling, loyally guarding the temple threshold whenever “Baal” was inside “poetizing.” For her, he is more than “merely my temporal companion,” he is also her Holy Spirit, her aegis against every serious political and moral threat of the age, the creator of a new world, “an inexhaustible fountain of all that is magnificent and comforting.” In this secure harbor, where Schelling, though an inexperienced head of household, nonetheless, through sheer exuberance of spirit, felt like the souverain de sa femme, Caroline herself was relieved of all insecurity and vulnerability. The prayer of many a serious hour in Jena was fulfilled, namely, that after receiving the most sublime gifts and experiencing the most profound misery, one might be granted the simplicity of fate with every vow. Thus was Caroline able to complete her life, just as she had once desired with such confident hope, amid the “peace and quiet of my innermost soul,” void of sentimentality, both receiving and bestowing happiness, yet free of the ravages of age and never having experienced any perceptible disparity in age with her husband, who never tired of expressing his grief at her loss in words whose elegance transcends any purely personal lament he may have had, and who later preserved her transfigured memory together with one of Caroline’s favorite, most loyal young friends [Pauline Gotter].

|xx| In creating his own monument to Caroline, Waitz abridged some of the material as seemed both appropriate given the sheer plethora of documents and genuinely required in order to maintain certain parameters. At the same time, he did repress material that family piety — in a perfectly legitimate fashion — preferred not to make public. In the process, however, the struggles between renunciation and passionate love for Schelling, struggles which move both intellect and soul, were lost even as a veil was also cast over the most painful episode in this woman’s life. It was not without an element of rigorous pathos that Rudolf Haym soon appeared on the scene and, drawing from Friedrich Schlegel’s letters, exposed Caroline’s Mainz adventure along with its consequences, doing so without dampening the enthusiasm that especially Wilhelm Scherer had already loudly expressed. Caroline herself, however, was put in the wrong insofar as she was not given the chance to present her own side of the story of this crisis. Hence Waitz’s silence on this issue proved to be a mistake. This new edition, which Major Paul von Schelling in Berlin so unreservedly and, I might say, cordially supported, engages in no such politics. Alongside documents of love and admiration, it also includes those that allow varying degrees of antipathy to emerge. It engages in advocacy neither for nor against, since this singular woman is strong enough to stand on her own. Wholly disinclined to engage in self-reproach or Rousseauist confessions, Caroline thought it quite understandable that one “might leave behind to one’s children and to those who come after us the documents of one’s own confused experiences, experiences that may well be of interest to humankind in a broader sense.” This complete presentation of her letters does not violate the open-minded disposition with which they were both written and preserved.

Introduction to the Annotations

|669| It goes without saying that the textual editing of a man like Georg Waitz was extraordinarily reliable. On the one hand, I rarely had to correct his reading; on the other, I did often include more of the available material without wishing to give the impression of completeness, not only in those repressed passages concerning the crisis in Lucka or Caroline’s profound, passionate struggles with regard to Schelling, but also concerning matters of daily life with its mundane concerns and sometimes harmless, sometimes malicious gossip. Although everything Waitz published had to be repeated in its entirety, I did not include every tiny addition concerning Caroline in the supplemental anthology of 1882, [4] but did include, following his skillful abridgement, the letters Caroline wrote to Julie von Studnitz in French during her youth (“Aus Jugendbriefen Carolines.” Preussische Jahrbücher 33 [1874], 3, 211–24; “Aus Jugendbriefen Carolines, Schluss,” Preussische Jahrbücher 33 [1874], 4, 369–87). The Schelling family was extremely generous in giving me ongoing access to their archives. I am indebted to the Royal Dresden Library for sending me Friedrich Schlegel’s letters and Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm as well as those Wilhelm wrote to Caroline after November 1801. Although Walzel did collate Friedrich’s letters, when he passed his own copy on to me he explicitly asked that I do a post-comparison, since the handwriting is extremely hasty and can even change on the same page. I hastily read through the other Dresden manuscripts myself after first drawing on Dr. Pechel’s assistance. Unfortunately, Caroline’s letters to Meyer were subsequently destroyed by their owner; for these and for letters to Luise Wiedemann — Caroline requested that manuscripts from Mainz and Königstein be returned to her (Luise Wiedemann to Schelling, February 1817 and March 1818) — I had to depend on Waitz’s copies, which fortunately were largely abridged only afterward. Unfortunately, such was not the case with Friedrich Schlegel’s letters to Auguste, which through some irksome accident have since disappeared. I am greatly indebted to Frau Waitz, née von Hartmann, for having loaned me copies of those letters. I will alert the reader to more detailed information in the appropriate place.

|670| I do, of course, allow Caroline her careless mistakes, whether they appear consistently or in varying forms that then disappear again. I have, however, silently resolved all abbreviations where no doubt exists and have similarly improved what is sometimes extremely faulty punctuation. Lacunae are indicated by ellipses.

My annotations have ended up being considerably more substantial except that I found no reason to add more material regarding political and historical issues than did the historian Waitz himself. For much solicited and even unsolicited help I must make do with a summary expression of gratitude insofar as I really cannot recall everyone’s name who has contributed and do not want to appear as though I am neglecting anyone. Despite their physical problems, Fritz Jonas and Jakob Minor generously offered their advice. It was sometimes quite difficult to identify certain persons; in the case of the Würzburg years, my old colleague and friend Theodor Henner was especially helpful. Reinhard Buchwald prepared the index with expert care.

Oskar F. Walzel, Friedrich Schlegels Briefe an seinen Bruder August Wilhelm (Berlin 1890) (I refer to this monumental work instead of including the manuscript excerpts which Waitz published as an appendix). Jakob Minor, Friedrich Schlegel 1794–1802. Seine prosaischen Jugendschriften, 2 vols. (Vienna 1882). J. M. Raich, Dorothea von Schlegel geb. Mendelssohn und deren Söhne Johannes und Philipp Veit. Briefwechsel, 2 vols. (Mainz 1881). G. L. Plitt, Aus Schellings Leben. In Briefen, 3 vols. (Leipzig 1869–70). The letters to Schleiermacher can be found in the four-volume collection Aus Schleiermachers Leben. In Briefen, ed. Jonas and Dilthey, vol. 3 (Berlin 1861); those to Ludwig Tieck can be found in Karl von Holtei’s Briefe an Ludwig Tieck, 4. vols. (Breslau 1864). Georg Waitz N[achtrag], Caroline und ihre Freunde. Mittheilungen aus Briefen (Leipzig 1882). Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des deutschen Geistes (Berlin 1870). Goethe’s works are cited according to the Weimar Edition; otherwise unaccompanied numerals refer to Eduard Böcking’s edition of A. W. Schlegel’s works, Sämmtliche Werke, 12 vols. (Leipzig 1846–47). – ALZ: (Jena) Allgemeine Litteratur-Zeitung; Alm.: Musenalmanach.

The portraits of Caroline and Auguste (owned by Dr. med. H. Waitz in Hamburg, to whom we are extremely grateful) were rendered quite poorly in the engravings of 1870 [1871]. Friedrich August Tischbein began them in March 1798 during his lengthy visit in Weimar and Jena and then completed at home, which also explains the account that Wilhelm Schlegel, who was always precise in such matters, gave to Tieck on 14 September 1800 (Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 3:232): “almost two years ago.” — Friedrich Tieck’sexcellent |671| portrait of Schelling from 1801 (see letter 330), owned by Major Paul von Schelling in Berlin, has never been published. There is no passable portrait of A. W. Schlegel from this period.

Secondary works that might be mentioned include: Wilhelm Scherer, Vorträge und Aufsätze zur Geschichte des geistigen Lebens in Deutschland und Oesterreich (Berlin 1874); Rudolf Haym, Gesammelte Aufsätze (Berlin 1903); Michael Bernays, Zur neueren Litteraturgeschichte (Leipzig 1898); Ricarda Huch, Blütezeit der Romantik (Leipzig 1899); Friedrich Gundelfinger, Romantiker-Briefe (Jena 1907); August Sauer, Frauenbilder aus der Blütezeit der deutschen Litteratur (Leipzig 1885); Franz Muncker, Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 31:3–6. Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick, Caroline Schlegel and her Friends (London 1889) offers nothing new; Mlle. Huguenin [?] is preparing a lengthy study in French.

First a few family dates (Fräulein Käthe Droysen in Göttingen provided resolutions for the Michaelis family, as did High Consistory Counselor Dr. Meister in Hannover for the Böhmer family — see below).

Johann David Michaelis (1717–91) had one son from his first marriage, Christian Friedrich (Fritz) (1754–1814); from his second marriage (17 August 1759), with Luise Schröder, daughter of the head postmaster in Göttingen, he had nine children, the first of whom quickly died. His surviving children included Caroline Albertine Dorothea, 2 September 1763–7 September 1809; Charlotte Wilhelmine, 17 October 1766–2 April 1793; Gottfried Philipp, 15 August 1768–21 August 1811; Luise, 12 September 1770–30 June 1846. Philippine Augusta [Auguste, Gustel] Böhmer, 28 April 1785–12 July 1800. — August Wilhelm Schlegel, 8 September 1767–12 May 1845. Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel, 10 March 1772–11 January 1829. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, 27 January 1775–20 August 1854.


[*] Introduction to Caroline. Briefe aus der Frühromantik, ed. Erich Schmidt, 2 vols (Leipzig 1913) v–xx. Footnotes are my own (editor). Back.

[1] Wilhelm Dilthey, Leben Schleiermachers (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1870); Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des deutschen Geistes (Berlin: R. Gaertner, 1870). Back.

[2] Caroline. Briefe an ihre Geschwister, ihre Tochter Auguste, die Familie Gotter, F. L. W. Meyer, A. W. und Fr. Schlegel, J. Schelling u. a., ed. G. Waitz (Leipzig: Verlag von S. Hirzel, 1871). Back.

[3] Martin Reulecke has helped clarify and resolve this allusion, which, as it turns out, is not really taking “Lucifer” as another name for the devil at all, at least not at all primarily, but rather in an allusion to Françoise Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Orléans (1677–1749) as described in the German translation of the memoirs of the Louis de Rouvroy, Duke of St. Simon (1675–1755), “Geheime Denkwürdigkeiten über die Regentschaft Philipps II. Herzogs von Orleans,” in Allgemeine Sammlung Historischer Memoires vom zwölften Jahrhundert bis auf die neuesten Zeiten durch mehrere Verfasser übersetzt, mit den nöthigen Anmerkungen versehen, und jedesmal mit einer universalhistorischen Uebersicht begleitet, part 2, vol. 28, ed. Friedrich Schiller (Jena 1805) 20–23. See Martin Reulecke, “‘Madame Lucifer’ — Anmerkung zur Caroline-Rezeption,” Athenäum: Jahrbuch der Friedrich Schlegel-Gesellschaft 20 (2010) 183–96; translation here. Back.

[4] Included in present edition. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott