Georg Waitz 1871 Introduction

Georg Waitz’s Preface
to the Edition of 1871 [*]

Dorothea Caroline Albertine Michaelis, daughter of the professor and Geheimer Justizrat Johann David Michaelis, was born 2 September 1763 in Göttingen. On 15 June 1784 she married Dr. med. and Clausthal mining physican Johann Franz Wilhelm Böhmer, son of the professor and Geheimer Justizrat Georg Ludwig Böhmer. She bore him two daughters, Auguste and Therese, and a son. Böhmer died on 4 February 1788, followed in death soon thereafter by the son born after his death. Caroline lived for a time as a widow in her parental home in Göttingen, then with one of her brothers, Fritz, in Marburg, where the latter was a professor at the university. The younger daughter, Therese, died there in December 1789. Caroline returned to Göttingen yet again in 1791 before moving to Mainz in the spring of 1792, where her childhood friend Therese Heyne was living with her husband, Georg Forster. Because she shared the sympathies of Forster and his friends for the spread of French freedom on the Rhine, and, albeit erroneously, was viewed as being intimately associated with her brother-in-law Georg Wilhelm Böhmer, General Adam Philippe de Custine’s secretary, she was captured in April 1793 while trying to leave the city, which was under siege by the German armies, and imprisoned first in Königstein, then under ameliorated conditions in Kronberg, before being freed through the mediation especially of her younger brother, Philipp — the later physician in Harburg, father of the deceased Kiel professor and grandfather of the current Tübingen professor. Under suspicion and persecuted from various quarters, she found refuge first in and near Leipzig, then in the house of her friends, the Gotters, in Gotha, before moving in the spring of 1795 to Braunschweig, where her mother had moved after her father’s death (22 August 1791). August Wilhelm Schlegel, who had become acquainted with Caroline while studying in Göttingen and had remained in contact with her, also moved to Braunschweig, and they married on 1 July 1796. Caroline followed him to Jena, where they lived for seven years with only brief interruptions, including trips to Dresden (spring 1797, summer 1798), Bamberg and Bocklet (summer 1800), and a stay in Braunschweig and Harburg (October 1800 till April 1801). Auguste died in Bocklet on 12 July 1800 — a turning point in Caroline’s life. Schlegel spent most of the following period in Berlin, where Caroline visited him in March 1802. An estrangement that had begun earlier and then was aggravated during the stay in Berlin ultimately led to their divorce on 17 May 1803; Caroline then traveled to Swabia with Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, where they were married by Schelling’s father in Murrhardt on 26 June 1803. After a brief stay in Munich, she accompanied her spouse to Würzburg, where he worked for a short while as a professor, and then to Munich, where Schelling had been appointed a member of the [Bavarian] Academy [of Sciences and Humanities]. Caroline took ill in Maulbronn during a trip to Swabia and died on 7 September 1809.

Thus the external course of the life of a woman who, as roundly attested by those who got to know her, was one of the most gifted of her age. Johann Diederich Gries referred to her as “by far the most witty and intelligent woman” he had even known. [1] And Henrik Steffens writes that “A. W. Schlegel and his remarkable and highly intelligent wife along with her charming daughter were among my most pleasant social contacts.” [2] Wilhelm von Humboldt notes the “high spirit and intellect” in the letters he received from her. [3] Friedrich Schlegel repeatedly spoke about how much he admired her and how profound an influence she had on both him and his brother. [4] A. W. Schlegel remarks that several of his own essays in fact derive “in part from the hand of an intelligent woman who possessed all the talents to shine as an author but whose ambition was not pointed in that direction.” [5] After her death, however, Schelling wrote that “she was a unique, singular being; one had to love her entirely or not at all. To the very end, she maintained this power to address the heart at its very core. . . . Even had she not meant to me what she did, I as a human being would have to weep for her and grieve over the fact that this tour de force of spirit is no longer, this rare woman with such masculine greatness of soul, with the most incisive intellect, united with the softness of the most feminine, most tender loving heart. Alas, nothing of that sort will ever appear again!” [6]

Less flattering assessments were also pronounced, by contemporaries in letters published later, and erroneous and in part untrue stories also put into circulation. [7]

It is her letters, however, that doubtless show who she really was. They provide us with a portrayal of both the external and internal life of this remarkable woman, who though occasionally going astray amid the changing circumstances of life nonetheless always worked her way through to increasing clarity, a woman who together with outstanding men attained a rare cultivation of spirit and intellect and who influenced and supported more than one in her own turn, yet a woman who was also engaged genuinely feminine characteristics as a mother, sister, and friend.

Next to her stands her daughter Auguste. Although she died at fifteen, even at this tender age she was able to win the hearts of everyone through her charming amiability and considerable gifts, being venerated and celebrated by both Schlegels, loved by Schelling, and eternalized in a memorial by Bertel Thorvaldsen. [8]

Unless my own judgment deceives me, I believe Caroline’s letters as such can claim a rightful place in our literature. Moreover, they also provide important contributions to the history of all those with whom Caroline came into contact, including Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer, Georg Forster, Therese Huber, August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel, Schelling, and others, as well as to the understanding of the literary and social circumstances at the end of the previous [eighteenth] and beginning of our own [nineteenth] century. The circles in Göttingen, Mainz, especially in Jena and Weimar, in part also in Berlin, later in Würzburg and Munich, the circumstances involving writers and universities, as well as contemporary political events all acquire illumination and clarification here.

I have been collecting these letters for twenty years, letters that at least in part I owe to the descendants of the recipients, with whom I am connected by kinship. Other material derives from the rich literary estate of August Wilhelm Schlegel, the repeated use of which Geheimer Justizrat Eduard Böcking in Bonn cordially extended to me, and from which I was also allowed to use the letters of Schelling published by Professor Gustav Plitt in the book Aus Schellings Leben . The second time, Professor Anton Klette, now in Jena, assisted me by securing copies and through other cordial support of my work.

That said, what I was able to bring together represents, of course, only part of the letters Caroline wrote. One is reluctant to do without especially the letters to Friedrich Schlegel from the earlier years. She later had some letters returned to her, later destroying them. [9] Others may yet show up in dispersed collections. Among the correspondence with the Gotters, a significant part unfortunately turned up again only after the printing of the first volume was almost finished, necessitating thus the addenda. What is now available here, however, suffices, together with individual letters to her and the material assembled in the supplements and notes, to provide a picture of her life and development. And that, especially, is what the goal had to be, in which regard her younger years were also of significance. Other material concerns Auguste. Some material that seemed to be of general, specifically literary interest was also included.

By contrast, insignificant material was left out — and more from the letters of her younger years, of course, than later — similarly also what seemed to be mere gossip or written in the passion of the moment. Nor, after all, do all the details of private life belong before the public, whereas considering everything that has already been published by others, there was certainly no particular reason for anxious reserve; moreover, it was indeed important to allow the true character of her relationships with Wilhelm Schlegel and Schelling to emerge.

The text reproduced here, with few exceptions, follows the original letters. The peculiar, occasionally incorrect [10] orthography was largely maintained; only specific items [11] and that which constitutes simple writing errors was altered. Punctuation, by contrast, was subject to more correction. Missing words or letters (generally because of abbreviations, in a couple of instances also through damage to the letter itself) have been supplied in [brackets]. Words whose reading was questionable are indicated by [?], material that is illegible by [ . . . ] (whereas [— —] refers to the omission of longer or shorter passages).

August Koberstein, Grundriss der Geschichte der deutschen National-Litteratur (Leipzig 1847–66) and Karl Goedeke, Grundriss zur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung aus den Quellen (Dresden 1857–81) served me well in writing the annotations; Wilhelm Dilthey’s Leben Schleiermacher (Berlin 1870) appeared when part of the first volume was already printed, Rudolf Haym’s Die romantische Schule (Berlin 1870) when almost the entire first volume was printed. Both books variously touch on the material contained in these letters, and the supplements in Haym especially provide various explications and even additions to what is communicated and discussed here from the letters of Friedrich Schlegel to August Wilhelm. [12] Considerable additional help and information was cordially provided by the editor of Schelling’s letters, Herr Professor Plitt in Erlangen, and by the publisher Herr Dr. S. Hirzel, who vigorously supported this publication.

If this edition nonetheless fails to include various materials, I may be allowed to adduce as my excuse the fact that I am here entering a field to which I have been able to devote only fleeting hours of work. The work has, however, profited from the fact that its publication is taking place later than I originally anticipated, though such has also diminished the considerable pleasure I might have had in presenting it to those who would have taken the greatest interest in it, namely, Eduard Böcking [1802–3 May 1870], August Koberstein [1797–8 March 1870], and Rudolf Köpke [1813–10 June 1870].

The appended portraits — of Auguste in the first volume, of Caroline in the second — were done by a skilled hand according after the oil portraits by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein mentioned several times in the letters (see especially letter 267 [in present edition]), and now in my possession. [13]


[*] Introduction to Caroline. Briefe an ihre Geschwister, ihre Tochter Auguste, die Familie Gotter, F. L. W. Meyer, A. W. und Fr. Schlegel, J. Schelling u. a., 2 vols., ed. G. Waitz (Leipzig: Verlag von S. Hirzel, 1871). I have provided fuller bibliographical information than does Waitz as well as full names and references (e.g., of letter numbers) to the present edition rather than to Waitz’s. Back.

[1] Aus dem Leben von J. D. Gries. Nach seinen eigenen und den Briefen seiner Zeitgenossen (Als Handschrift gedruckt), ed. Elisabeth Hoffmann Campe ([Hamburg] 1855), 39. Back.

[2] Was ich erlebte. Aus der Erinnerung niedergeschrieben, 10 vols. (Breslau 1840–44), 4:82. Back.

[3] [See Wilhelm von Humboldt to Wilhelm Schlegel on 16 November 1793 (letter 136.3 present edition).] Back.

[4] [Ed. note: Waitz refers the reader to several letter extracts from Friedrich Schlegel, all of which are included in this present edition, as well as the passage from Friedrich’s novel Lucinde. Ein Roman (Berlin 1799) that Erich Schmidt reprints.] Back.

[5] A. W. Schlegel, Kritische Schriften, 1:xviii. These works include: the evaluation of several plays and novels (by August Wilhelm Iffland, Friedrich Schulz, August Heinrich Lafontaine) [see list of Caroline’s literary reviews vol. 1]; “Die Gemaehlde. Ein Gespräch von W.,” in Athenaeum (1799) 39–151; “Ueber Shakespeare’s Romeo und Julia,” in Die Horen (1797) 10, no. 6, 18–48 ([see letters 186, 187]; I [i.e., Georg Waitz] am unable to document that she also contributed to the translation itself, as maintained by Carl Wilhelm Otto August von Schindel, Die Deutschen Schriftstellerinnen des 19. Jahrhunderts, 2 vols. and supplementary volume (Leipzig 1823–25), 2:246–47, here 247:

Although she exhibited rare intellectual gifts even as a very young girl, she never published anything under her own name, notwithstanding the magnificent rays of light emitted by her own intellect in several aesthetic essays known only to her friends. — These essays appeared in part under the name of her second husband, August Wilhelm Schlegel, with whom even as a bride she translated Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. . . . [Works Schindel enumerates include:] Romeo und Julie by Shakespeare, translated from the English (Berlin 1797) [see bibliographical listing of Wilhelm Schlegel’s edition of Shakespeare] and Die Höhle des Todes from the French (Leipzig 1800) [the latter not by Caroline; see the end of Waitz’s note here].

I believe I can discern Caroline’s influence and even her mode of expression in Schlegel’s earliest reviews in the Göttinger Gelehrte Anzeigen [Göttingische Zeitung(en) von gelehrten Sachen] 1789 and 1790. — She herself is also responsible for several essays and critical reviews in Athenaeum and in other journals. One is the piece on Johannes Müller’s “Fragmente aus den Briefen eines jungen Gelehrten an seinen Freund,” Teutsches Magazin (1798–99) [completed in 1800] in Athenaeum (1799) 313–16 [reprinted in both Waitz and Erich Schmidt and translated in the present edition]; the following reviews are extant as manuscripts [see list of Caroline’s literary reviews, vol. 2]:

Reviews of stories by August von Kotzebue and Christian August Gottlob Eberhard [August von Kotzebue, Kleine Romane, Erzählungen, Anekdoten und Miscellen, vols. 2–4 (Leipzig 1805–6), and A. E. (i.e., Christian August Gottlob) Eberhard, Gesammelte Erzählungen, vol. 3 (Leipzig 1806), in the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1809) 36 (13 February 1809) 281–87; the review is in fact by Schelling], with an addendum by Schelling, identified as “In October 1798”; of Adelbert von Chamisso and Karl August Varnhagen von Ense, Musenalmanach auf das Jahr 1805 (Berlin 1805) (in the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung [1805] 107 [6 May 1805] 241–45, signed “MZ”; doubtless erroneously attributed to a Herr von Jarriges by Varnhagen von Ense, Adelbert von Chamisso’s Werke, ed. Julius Eduard Hitzig, 6. vols. [Leipzig 1836–39], 5:70); of Aurora, a journal from south Germany (1804); and of Wilhelm Gottlieb Becker’s Erholungen 4 (1806).

Concerning a review of Ludwig Ferdinand Huber’s Erzählungen (Braunschweig 1801), see letter no. 293 [present edition]. I think it doubtful that Caroline wrote the review of Julchen Grünthal: Eine Pensionsgeschichte, 3rd ed. (Berlin 1798) by Friederike Unger, which Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, 171, 872, imputes to her. — Schlegel speaks about a narrative in a letter [letter 163 in present edition]; Appendix 4 [included in present edition] includes the draft of a novel. By contrast, no evidence has been found supporting Caroline’s suspected authorship of the novel Nachtwachen (Penig 1805) that appeared under the name Bonaventura and is attributed to Schelling. — Her later letters make several references to translations from the Italian, though probably nothing was published except a sonnet by Petrarch; more is appended in volume 2 [sonnets by Caroline and Schelling]. — She herself mentions adaptations of French singspiele [letters 301, 336, 338 in present edition]. Johann Georg Meusel, Das gelehrte Teutschland oder Lexikon der jetzt lebenden teutschen Schriftsteller, 5th ed., 23 vols. (Lemgo 1796–1834), vol. 10 (1803), 578, attributes a comedy, Die Höhle des Todes (n.p. 1800), to a certain Friederike Caroline Schlegel, whom in vol. 15 (1811), 286 he identifies [as previously the wife of A. W. Schlegel, then later] as Schelling’s spouse, though by what right I know not [here Meusel also adds “Leipzig” as the place of publication for Die Höhle des Todes]. Back.

[6] Aus Schellings Leben in Briefen, 3 vols., ed. G. L. Plitt (Leipzig 1869–70), 2:184 [letter 452 in present edition], in a letter to Philipp Michaelis. He made comparable remarks in letters to Pauline Gotter and others. Back.

[7] For example, that she was the spouse of Dr. Georg Wilhelm Böhmer, who played a less than honorable role in Mainz and who later lived for a lengthy period in Göttingen. This mistaken identity emerged even at that time (letter 131 [in present edition]; see Anselm Feuerbach in a letter written from Jena, Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach’s Leben und Wirken aus seinen ungedruckten Briefen und Tagebüchern, Vorträgen und Denkschriften, 2 vols., ed. Ludwig Feuerbach [his son] [Leipzig 1852], 1:69–70), and was perpetrated by Eduard Boas and others (Schiller und Goethe im Xenienkampf, 2 vols. [Stuttgart, Tübingen 1851], 1:147–48 [“In the year 1793 she appeared in Mainz as the spouse of Doctor Böhmer, a zealous clubbist and adjutant of General Custine“; for full text see notes to letter 172 in present edition]). This mistaken identity became even more widespread through Heinrich Koenig’s well-known novel, Die Clubisten in Mainz. Ein Roman (Leipzig 1847; 2nd ed. in 3 vols. 1857) [see also, in the present edition, the 1793 satire The Mainz Clubbists in Königstein]. Feuerbach writes to his father from Jena on 18 January 1802:

His [Wilhelm Schlegel’s] domestic situation is peculiar and yet not peculiar, depending on how one understands the relationship. His wife, an extremely cultured and erudite lady, is living here; he himself is usually in Berlin, where he is currently giving lectures on aesthetics to handsome ladies and gentlemen. He occasionally pays a visit to his wife, though by “wife” nothing more is meant than a female person whose hand a cleric put into Schlegel’s own and who bears his name. As is universally known, Professor Schelling, the idealist, possesses and exercises the real marital rights. Schlegel as a writer, poet, and transcendental philosopher is by neither law nor reason interested in this particular point at all, since he knows that everything is merely the self-created product of his self, and Schelling, after all, present only in him and through him and as part of his own I-ness. He is without any real wealth; his wife, the divorced wife of Böhmer, allegedly has something, albeit without really being rich. He is about 30 years old.

Georg Böhmer was in fact her brother-in-law but otherwise had only a distant personal relationship with her, as shown by letters 118 and 129 [in the present edition]. Carl Eduard Vehse, Geschichte der deutschen Höfe seit der Reformation, 48 vols. (Hamburg 1851–58), vol. 45, 6. Abtheilung, Erster Theil, Die geistlichen Höfe I, (Hamburg 1859), 241–45, perpetrated even greater misconceptions. In the passage Vehse adduces from the Denkwürdiger und nützlicher Rheinischer Antiquarius, welcher die wichtigsten und angenehmsten geographischen, historischen und politischen Merkwürdigkeiten des ganzen Rheinstroms, von seinem Ausfluß in das Meer bis zu seinem Ursprunge darstellt. Von einem Nachforscher in historischen Dingen, [Vehse 240 does not further identify the volume, year, or pagination: Mittelrhein. Der I. Abtheilung 1. Band (Coblenz 1851), Christian von Stramberg, Coblenz, die Stadt: historisch und topographisch dargestellt, vol. 1 (Coblenz 1851), 764–66], the woman identifed through ellipsis (i.e., as ” . . . “) was in fact the wife of a certain Dr. D . . . . . [For full text see Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 3 April 1793 (letter 121c), with note 1.] — The biographical notes in Schindel, Die Deutschen Schriftstellerinnen des 19. Jahrhunderts [see above], which Karl Goedeke, Grundriss zur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung aus den Quellen, vol. 3, 1. Abtheilung (Dresden 1881), 12, follows, and that which Wilhelm Dilthey, Leben Schleiermachers, vol. 1, 1768–1807 (Berlin 1870) and Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des deutschen Geistes (Berlin 1870) have recently published, are essentially correct [except that Goedeke includes from Meusel (see above) the imputation of authorship to Caroline of Die Höhle des Todes]. Back.

[8] The original triptych relief is on display today in the Thorvaldsen museum in Copenhagen, having never been erected at her gravesite [see plates 7ff. in the gallery Auguste’s memorial on this site]. Back.

[9] See the letter from Huber, [no. 164 in present edition]; Luise Wiedemann wrote to Schelling in February 1817 and on 16 March 1818 that Caroline had requested her letters written from Mainz and Königstein be returned to her, assuring Luise, however, that she would return them; she never did. Back.

[10] Specifically when such involves consistent errors, such as [Germ.] interressiren, reißen instead of reisen, wieder instead of wider. Similar examples can be found in many other letters from this period as well, and even scholars sometimes write less correctly than does Caroline. — Occasionally she will alternate such spellings as [Germ.] den and denn, kan and kann, komt and kommt, and at least during her later period contemporary orthography [Waitz is writing in 1870] predominates. Back.

[11] E.g., n rather than m in the dative. — The fact that during the printing I myself no longer had access to all the letters, but rather only copies done at various earlier times, albeit copies I myself usually compared to the originals, may well have prompted this or that irregularity, e.g., in maintaining Latin letters for foreign words etc. Back.

[12] For example [all in Die romantische Schule]:

  • in the body of the text on p. 504 [Friedrich Schlegel’s remarks concerning Dorothea Veit in a letter to Wilhelm Schlegel from Berlin in March 1799; letter 227 in present condition];
  • in the note on p. 505 [an excerpt from Dorothea Veit’s letter to Caroline on 26 March 1799 concerning Lucinde and “dithyrambic fantasy”; letter 231 in present edition];
  • in the letter body on p. 891 [concerning Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi and Schiller, in a letter Friedrich writes to Wilhelm and Caroline from Berlin on 7 May 1799; see letter 236b in present edition];
  • on p. 900 [concerning Friedrich’s suggestion that Caroline excerpt fragments for Athenaeum, e.g., letter 194 in present edition; and Friedrich’s dissatisfaction with what she came up with; also Friedrich’s urging Caroline to produce fragments herself, see letter 191 in present edition].
  • The passage I could never quite decipher, (1871) 1:239, line 12 [Waitz transcribes: “Schl[eiermacher] meynt, man sollte vom Churfürsten zu Sachsen eine zu Recht beständige Definition von Gott und Deist (?) darzu (?) verlangen”; letter 218 in present edition, Friedrich Schlegel to Caroline from Berlin, “12? February 1799”, third paragraph], Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, 487, reads as “and his existence” [“und seinem Daseyn”; in fact, Haym reads “and the latter’s existence,” “und dessen Dasein”; KFSA 24:229 follows that reading]; I will leave in abeyance whether his reading is correct, since I no longer have the original with me.
  • Haym, Die romantische Schule, 495fn*, line 5, does in any case incorrectly read “I am sparkling, shimmering” [schillre] rather than “saving” [spare]. [Erich Schmidt, (1913), 487, letter 213, reads “I sense, feel” (spüre), but does add a question mark. KFSA 24:218, 429n11, follows Haym (schillre) but cites Schmidt’s reading as well. He does not cite Waitz’s reading (spare).] Back.

[13] The portraits are allegedly still in the possession of descendants of the Schelling family who do, however, wish to remain autonomous. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott