Georg Waitz Review of 1871 Edition

Georg Waitz
Self-review of
Caroline. Briefe an ihre Geschwister, ihre Tochter Auguste,
die Familie Gotter, F. L. W. Meyer, A. W. und Fr. Schlegel, J. Schelling
u. a. nebst Briefen von A. W. und Fr. Schlegel u. a.

Edited by Georg Waitz. 2 vols. Leipzig 1871.

Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen (1871) 899–920

These present volumes are interesting for a twofold reason: first, because of the woman whose name they bear and whose letters constitute the majority of the contents; and second, because of the various persons with whom she was acquainted or otherwise connected and the circles in which she herself lived and on whose circumstances her letters and the letters from others to her throw new light. Her own life was as turbulent and moving as, in their own turn, these relationships were broad and varied.

A native of Göttingen and acquainted or otherwise connected with virtually all the families that at the end of the last [eighteenth] century shaped both the scholarly and the general intellectual climate of both the university and the town — namely, the Michaelis, Böhmer, Heyne, Schlözer, Spittler families etc. She also early became closely acquainted with men who either at that time or later were engaged in significant literary activity or who in part also ended up taking quite different career paths, for example, Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer (the biographer of Friedrich Ludwig Schröder, later also called the “Bramstedt Meyer” to distinguish him from other writers of that name), Georg Forster, and Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel. After a brief marriage in Clausthal to the physician Franz Wilhelm Böhmer, she was drawn to Mainz as a young widow by her childhood friend Therese Forster, née Heyne, where she developed considerable enthusiasm for the political movement in which Georg Forster played such a significant role. After being captured during the siege through which the Germans retook the town, and not entirely without culpability of her own, she found refuge with the family of the writer Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter in Gotha, with whose wife she had been loyal friends since her early youth. [1] Captivated by her rich intellectual gifts, Wilhelm Schlegel, whose acquaintance she had made in Göttingen, offered her his hand soon thereafter. She accompanied him to Jena during the time when what is known as the Romantic school assembled there and also engaged in extraordinarily active exchange with Weimar. It was here that she met Schelling, who, attracted by this intelligent and bright woman and simultaneously filled with affection for her only surviving daughter from her earlier marriage, Auguste, became an increasingly close acquaintance of the household. Auguste died during a mineral-springs stay in Bocklet. Wilhelm Schlegel thereafter moved to Berlin while Caroline remained for a time in Braunschweig, where her mother and a younger married sister were living. When the latter’s husband, the physician Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann, departed on a lengthy journey, she accompanied Caroline to Jena. During a visit to Berlin, Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel engaged in discussions that eventually led to a divorce. Soon thereafter she married Schelling, who left Jena at the time to go to Würzburg, which under Bavarian rule was now to be elevated to new heights, and thereafter to Munich, as a member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, where Caroline, too, was then introduced into completely different circumstances. During a trip to Swabia in 1809, she took ill and died in Maulbronn, where Schelling’s father was employed. She was forty-six years old.

Caroline lived through a powerful, kaleidoscopic, and turbulent age, one that included the complete political transformation of Europe and Germany from the beginnings of the French Revolution to the founding and fullest development and spread of imperial rule over most of Europe. In Mainz she approached unnervingly close to the former, in Würzburg and Munich equally close to the latter and its impact on German circumstances. It was also the age of the grandest intellectual and literary transformations, something she witnessed first-hand, from the Göttinger Musenalmanach to the periodicals of Schiller and Goethe, Wilhelm Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck, from the philosophy of Friedrich Ludwig Bouterwek to that of Fichte and Schelling. During her youth, she eagerly devoured whatever intellectual nourishment was offered — which, as was the custom, was generally a colorful admixture ranging from light popular reading to historical pieces, Johann Gottfried Herder’s Gott! Einige Gespräche [Gotha 1787], the polemical writings of Johann August Stark, etc. She also took an independent interest in efforts to introduce the masterpieces of foreign literature in Germany, e.g., Shakespeare, Petrarch, and others. Nor did she shy away from philosophical studies, engaging in them with Friedrich Schlegel, becoming stimulated by the work of Fichte and Schleiermacher and also taking an interest in Schelling’s work. Although she herself actively gave to many of those around her, she in her own turn allowed Schelling to guide her; it was in him that she recognized the superior, dominating intellect, and in alliance with him that her life reached a clear, satisfying conclusion.

Schelling expressed his extraordinarily high esteem for Caroline in a letter from which the preface to the present edition cites the following passage:

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 delicate, loving heart. Alas, nothing of that sort will ever appear again!

Similar remarks from distinguished men, e.g., from Wilhelm Schlegel — written long after their divorce — Wilhelm von Humboldt, Henrik Steffens, and Johann Diederich Gries, are also collected together there.

Other aspects of her character and life, however, prompted quite different assessments. Her comportment in Mainz, her relationship with Georg Forster, quarrels with Dorothea Veit, and her divorce from Wilhelm Schlegel all provided occasion for offense among not only her contemporaries, but later generations as well. Although some of that offense was certainly legitimate, some was prompted by either inadequate or incorrect information about actual circumstances. Caroline was passionate, her judgment could be biting, her behavior sometimes inconsiderate; moreover, she was not entirely without pretensions and could be overbearing in bringing her influence to bear. Legend and even fiction (in König’s novel [Heinrich Koenig, Die Clubisten in Mainz. Ein Roman (Leipzig 1847); in 3 vols. 1857 as part of his Gesammelte Schriften]) also took her to task [see also, in the present volume, The Mainz Clubbists in Königstein]. She was long viewed even here in her hometown [Göttingen] as the wife — likely the divorced wife — of a certain Dr. Böhmer who had played a rather ignominious role in Mainz under Adam Philippe de Custine.

Her letters, whose acquaintance I myself first made more than twenty years ago, presented a different picture, one that exercised a considerable attraction on me. Schelling’s literary estate yielded even greater riches, whereupon I decided, with the permission of my in-laws, to prepare these materials for publication. Through the generosity of Eduard Böcking, I also managed to acquire materials from the literary estate of Wilhelm Schlegel, which were later joined by the letters to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer. From earlier publications I retrieved the letter to Schiller, one to Johanne Frommann, and a poetic epistle from Auguste to Friedrich Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck [letter 232 in present edition]. The rich correspondence with the family of Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter was the last treasure to emerge; unfortunately, part of it came to light only after the printing of this edition had already begun, an edition long envisioned and repeatedly postponed.

And yet it is precisely these letters to which I would accord particular importance, for they continue throughout Caroline’s entire life. Indeed, the first extant letter from Caroline is addressed to Luise Stieler on 4 September 1778 [letter 1], who married Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter shortly thereafter. In the final letter of this present collection [letter 449 present edition], Luise pours out her grief to Schelling over the death of her friend. This friendship from Caroline and Luise’s youth endured through every change of circumstances in Caroline’s life; even in the midst of the most trying and difficult times, Caroline could always find refuge in the Gotters’ house, whose members never erred in their assessment of their friend. Caroline in her own turn similarly reciprocated this friendship with the most loyal and enduring concern and love for every member of the family. One daughter, Julie, repeatedly spent lengthy visits in her house in Jena, and it was to her that Caroline addressed the letter in which she went into such detail concerning the reasons prompting her divorce from Wilhelm Schlegel [letter 375 present edition]. Caroline similarly nurtured the youngest daughter, Pauline, with genuine maternal love, as if she sensed that Pauline would one day occupy the empty place at Schelling’s side and thereafter grant him all the joys and blessings of youthful love and a happy marriage.

These letters deriving from Caroline’s childhood friendship with Luise Stieler are joined by those to her sister Lotte Michaelis, written for the most part during her brief marriage to Franz Wilhelm Böhmer. They quickly recount both the joys and sufferings of this spoiled young woman in the small, solitary mining town at the side of a busy physician. They also, however, attest her quest for continuing intellectual nourishment while simultaneously addressing life in Göttingen, complementing and continuing accounts contained in the letters to Luise Gotter. I cannot say that Göttingen life during those years comes to expression anywhere as vividly as in Caroline’s letters. Readers will doubtless enjoy the accounts of August Ludwig von Schlözer’s return from the journey he undertook with his daughter, Dorothea to Italy [letter 31 in present edition], the portrayal of Ludwig Timotheus Spittler and his wife [letter 40 in present edition], and her description of her own wedding [letter 44 in present edition]. A rather characteristic letter from Schlözer from a bit later has been included [letter 159 in present edition]. There are similarly multiple refernces to Christoph Meiners, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, and others.

Caroline’s relationship with Therese Heyne was quite peculiar, for the two women were equally attracted and repulsed the one by the other their entire lives. Caroline repeatedly returns to the topic of Therese, often reproaching her, accusing her, and in the next breath unable express effusively enough both her affection and her love. It was through Therese that Caroline came to reside in Mainz. Caroline was close to Therese’s friend Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer as well as to her husband, Georg Forster, though without passion. Therese, after marrying Ludwig Ferdinand Huber, wrote Caroline a painfully frank letter concerning her life, only part of which could be published here [but published in full in the present edition, letter 142]. The two childhood friends meet again later in Stuttgart, and Caroline’s later letters to Frau Liebeskind, née Forkel [correct: née Wedekind, divorced Forkel], from Göttingen again speak at length about Therese and her children.

One other significant acquaintance from Göttingen is Gottfried August Bürger, whose sad fate, specifically in his second marriage, comes to expression repeatedly. Both Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer and Wilhelm Schlegel had connections with him.

Meyer’s relationship with Therese, Lotte’s infatuation with the variously gifted but eccentric man who tended to go his own way, and Caroline and Meyer’s shared acquaintance with the Gotter family also brought these two together into a closer relationship. She displays not inconsiderable trust toward him in letters, both seeking and receiving his advice during and after the episode in Mainz, and at the same time also relates quite a few interesting details that in their own turn may well claim a certain historical value.

Meyer in his own turn was a close acquaintance of Georg Ernst Tatter, a native of Hannover about whom we know little more than what a distinguished woman has related about him in the book Zur Erinnerung an F. L. W. Meyer and for whom Caroline , at the time a young widow in Göttingen, apparently developed an ardent affection that he reciprocated with warm acknowledgement [letter 89 in present edition, albeit to Meyer, not to Caroline], without, however, ever allowing himself to be captivated by her in any enduring fashion.

By contrast, such was precisely the case with Wilhelm Schlegel, who as a student made her acquaintance at this same time and with whom she later remained in contact after her own move first to Marburg, where she lived with her brother, a professor there, and then to Mainz. Unfortunately, Caroline’s letters to Schlegel during this period have not been preserved, and we learn of them only through those Friedrich Schlegel wrote to his brother, who related them to Friedrich. Here we do indeed see the considerable impact Caroline had on the intellectual development of Wilhelm Schlegel, though he did manage to escape her attempt to draw him, too, into the revolutionary movement in Mainz. He was, moreover, also involved for a time with a quite different affair of the heart in Amsterdam. But when Caroline genuinely did need his help, he came immediately and devoted himself selflessly to her. Although the extensive study by Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, for which he was permitted access to Schlegel’s literary estate, has already thrown considerable light on these circumstances, I did think it helpful to include excerpts in an appendix from Friedrich Schlegel’s letters relating to this situation [letters included in full in present edition]. [2]

Letters to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer and Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter illuminate Caroline’s fate during and after the capitulation of Mainz and are then joined by several others in a separate appendix [all included in full in present edition]. Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose mediation was also sought in this trying situation, takes the opportunity in a letter to Wilhelm Schlegel to describe the impression Caroline’s letters made on him [letter 136.3 in present edition]. It was her brother Philipp Michaelis, however, who eventually brought about her release through Friedrich Wilhelm II.

Unfortunately, the spite directed at several of her friends from Mainz, specifically her brother-in-law Georg Wilhelm Böhmer, followed her long after the actual episode itself was over. The Saxon administration refused to accept her residence in Dresden, and the Hannoverian university trustees issued a decree to the university prorector in Göttingen to the effect that she not be allowed to remain in that town (16 August 1794 [document 146 present edition]), a decree invoked anew in 1800 even after she had been married to Wilhelm Schlegel for several years, with the addendum that should “the disreputable Friedrich Schlegel, author of writings ruinous to public morals, arrive in order to spend time there himself, so also is said person similarly to be denied such and is instead to be informed that he is to quit Göttingen forthwith” [document 269 in present edition] — two official documents that were doubtless characteristic of the period and which are here included from the Göttingen University archives.

It was during this period that Caroline first made Friedrich Schlegel’s acquaintance, who later acknowledged the considerable influence she exercised on his own development, something Rudolf Haym has documented in more detail [in Die romantische Schule]. I had relatively little access to letters Caroline wrote to Friedrich; I do not know what has become of his literary estate and have heard that other scholars have similarly come up short in this search. By contrast, I did have access to quite a few extant letters from Friedrich to Caroline, and still others to her daughter, Auguste. The former begin in 1795, when Caroline moved from Gotha to Braunschweig, and become increasingly numerous after her marriage to Wilhelm Schlegel there on 1 July 1796.

In Jena, Caroline quickly entered into the busy intellectual life regnant in this small town of the muses that also kept the town closely associated with Weimar. Her letters to Luise Gotter describe her new impressions of the town and also recount various items about both the personal and intellectual activity of the time, e.g., concerning what was initially her cordial relations with Schiller, her initial acquaintance with Goethe, and about the two friends’ work at the time. One letter that I was able to include only in the appendix [letter 172 in present edition] will doubtless be of particular interest with its detailed information about the [Goethe and Schiller’s] Xenien; its individual interpretations in part confirm and in part even correct what subsequent scholarship has been able to determine concerning the various persons involved. We now learn that one in particular — one scholars thought referred to Caroline herself and which provided Boas the occasion to spread additional incorrect information about her in his book on the Xenien — referred not to Caroline at all, but rather to Friederike Brun. [3]

Caroline also participated in her husband’s work, and Wilhelm Schlegel himself later publicly acknowledged which essays were directly involved, emphasizing specifically that on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, an essay scholars have since repeatedly acknowledged as having made a key contribution to establishing the British poet’s reputation in Germany. [4] Excerpts from two different letters have been included in which Caroline essentially supplies the entire material for the essay [letters 186, 187 in present edition]. Wilhelm Schlegel made only isolated and, in reality, not particularly significant stylistic changes and slightly reorganized the material. Dating this essay presents certain difficulties; although the letters are here dated to 1797, namely, when the essay itself appeared in Die Horen, they may have been written as early as 1796. But Caroline made similar contributions to other essays by Wilhelm Schlegel as well, specifically “Die Gemählde,” which grew out of their collective study at the Dresden gallery during their visit there [in 1798]. Nor can one fail to discern Caroline’s influence or, as some scholars lately maintain, even her thoughts and words, as early as in Schlegel’s critical essays in our own Göttinger Gelehrte Anzeigen, which at that time focused on belles lettres to a considerably greater extent than is the case today, and then also in the numerous contributions Schlegel made to the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. Although I am not inclined to confirm that the Schlegel brothers’ later disaffection toward Schiller is to be traced back primarily to Caroline, it is doubtless true that she was never quite able to make much of the pathos of his poesy and was not infrequently swept up in rather one-sided judgments of his work, something doubtless not without influence on their personal relationship, including a certain disinclination on the part of Schiller’s wife toward Caroline.

The Schlegels themselves soon began publishing their own periodical, Athenaeum, in which Caroline, too, participated by offering advice, encouraging the work, and even contributing individual essays of her own. One in particular that has been shown to come from her hand has been included here in an appendix, namely, the review of Johannes Müller’s “Fragmente aus den Briefen eines jungen Gelehrten an seinen Freund.” [5] Indeed, this review made such an impression on Müller himself that he considered it worthy of inclusion in his collected works. Friedrich Schlegel’s letters to Caroline address other possibilities; although he urged her to contribute “fragments” and especially a novel — which at the time was viewed as the consummation of all poesy — nothing emerged apart from a hasty draft [included in present edition].

Friedrich Schlegel was living in Berlin at the time, closely associated with Schleiermacher and his circle. The correspondence between the two brothers during this period was at least in part mediated by Caroline, Friedrich’s own letters being directed sometimes to her and sometimes to his brother and sister-in-law collectively; here it was not always easy to decide just what to include in this edition. Moreover, since I did not really have as convenient access to the expanded correspondence between Friedrich and Wilhelm Schlegel for a lengthier period as to other parts of the literary estate, I may well have overlooked one or the other passage. In any case, this present collection does include a wealth of quite characteristic, even piquant passages concerning Friedrich’s life and work in Berlin, his relationships with Schleiermacher, Ludwig Tieck, Dorothea Veit, Henriette Herz, and others. I was not really interested in publishing certain passages that had no significance for Caroline and did not throw a particularly positive light on Friedrich in any case. Although there is doubtless much more in Friedrich’s letters to his brother that might be worthy of publication, here, too, discretion would be necessary. I for my part have generally not been overly anxious about withholding anything, least of all some of the more acerbic comments. On the other hand, just as little did I think that absolutely all the circumstances mentioned in such family letters be made accessible for public consumption, and since bitter accusations and reproaches were indeed made after certain disruptions emerged among these acquaintances, I thought it appropriate to publish as little of that material as possible [though such is published in the present edition]. I took as my own guidelines those Wilhelm Dilthey observed in his edition of Schleiermacher’s correspondence [Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben]. There Dorothea Veit vents her anger toward Caroline, while here Caroline vents her own toward Dorothea. It is not my task to determine who was more (or less) in the right or to whom greater culpability is to be attributed. Only a few words from Dorothea to Caroline are extant, words that, like those of Schleiermacher, were added to one of Friedrich’s letters [letter 238 in present edition; see also letters 231, 234], then also one from Dorothea to Auguste from the year 1800, albeit with the rather peculiar remark, “should I ever become a Christian, it must certainly be a Catholic” [letter 263 in present edition]. Letters from Friedrich to Auguste are more numerous, with whom he became acquainted as a bright child (she diligently learned Greek) and whom he then watched develop into a charming young woman. Indeed, since these are perhaps the most gracious, warmly human pieces Friedrich ever wrote, it seemed that after including in the main body of text only those passages relating to Caroline, I might also include these in an appendix.

Auguste, however, eventually also became one more factor in the alienation and, soon enough, also the complete break among the friends. Schelling, whose acquaintance the Schlegels had made in Dresden, soon became quite close to both Auguste and Caroline, and they had quickly included him in their closest circle of friends in Jena. The wife’s intellect, the husband’s wealth of literary knowledge, and the daughter’s charming grace greatly attracted Schelling at the same time his own youthful energy was quickly turning him into the center of their lives; but that same energy also immediately wounded Friedrich’s jealous personality, who referred to Schelling as “granite”; there can be no question that Friedrich, with his softer personality, one capable of only momentary inspiration, receded considerably beside Schelling, and that as a person and philosopher — both of which he was striving to be at the time — he found it difficult to bear. That he also found himself displaced with Caroline and Auguste compounded his vexation to the point that he could not refrain from venting to his brother, something Caroline in her own turn viewed as an unjustified intrusion into their private affairs. Although the letters at my disposal do not entirely clarify these things, I did take issue in a footnote against the view Dilthey expresses in his Leben Schleiermachers [Berlin 1870] against Gustav Plitt’s presentation in Aus Schellings Leben. Given certain remarks made by both Schelling and Caroline, there can, I believe, be no doubt that Schelling loved Auguste and, one might even say, watched her grow into and contributed to her upbringing as his future bride, which also explains why he became so unaffectedly close to her mother and accompanied both on the journey Caroline made with her daughter to Bamberg and Bocklet for health reasons, Wilhelm Schlegel even accompanying them during the first part of the journey. Auguste, however, became ill and died in Bocklet, an event concluding the first volume.

That event constituted a turning point in Caroline’s life. She was infinitely attached to the child, the only one surviving from earlier times, and this love is attested not only by numerous remarks concerning Auguste herself, but also by a number of letters written to Auguste during a period when the latter was temporarily away from Jena. Shattered by this loss, Caroline never recovered, and she often speaks subsequently about being merely a shadow on earth, her true life having been taken away — and yet she was eventually to enjoy a great many other, varied experiences in her life. Wilhelm Schlegel, however, was also deeply affected by Auguste’s loss, not only composing a literary memorial to her in his Todtenopfer, but also expressing his grief even more movingly in a letter to Ludwig Tieck:

If our beloved do indeed live in our own disposition, as you say, then Auguste has never lived more than now; although I did realize that I greatly loved her, her death has now summoned the entirety of my concealed love for her to the surface.

Schelling was profoundly wounded; when Caroline herself died nine years later, he remarked that “now I had finally also lost Auguste entirely.” Death loosened the bonds that tied Caroline to Schlegel while simultaneously establishing or securing her alliance with Schelling, which, initially one of friendship, was then supposed to be maternal before eventually turning into one of matrimony.

The second volume begins with the letters Caroline wrote to Schelling from Braunschweig, where she spent time with her sister after her return from Bocklet. His letters to her have not been preserved. In any event, what we have before us attests the enormous inner struggles Caroline experienced amid he pain and grief over her daughter’s loss and also amid her concern with perhaps now having to give up her friend and son [i.e., Schelling] as well. Only gradually did she regain her balance and then also the elasticity of her intellect and spirit.

Wilhelm Schlegel, who had accompanied Caroline to Braunschweig, eventually relocated to Berlin, where he devoted himself to literary projects and lecturing. Caroline followed his every move from afar with the most concerned interest, rejoicing in his successes, encouraging him to diligence in his work and especially to move ahead to more significant productions. And after returning to Jena, she sent him extensive weekly or twice-weekly reports about everything happening in literary and scholarly circles in Jena or neighboring Weimar. These letters, given their scope, are the most significant of the entire collection and may well be viewed as an important contribution to our understanding of those particular circumstances. Of course, given the nature of these accounts, they invariably also contain much that is of considerably less importance, including empty gossip and accounts of quarrels with Friedrich and various families in Jena. Although not inconsiderable passages have not been included here, it is not so many as to prevent the overall character of the correspondence from emerging clearly.

Such is the case also for the period during which Wilhelm Schlegel and Caroline became increasingly alienated, a situation eventually leading to a break during Caroline’s visit to Berlin. All the extant documents — documents that seem to have been carefully preserved — disclose merely that financial issues came to expression that — given the separate households and Schlegel’s less-than-robust income (Caroline herself had a modest inheritance) — became oppressive for him. It goes without saying, of course, that other factors were involved as well. “Schlegel,” Caroline writes, “should never have been anything but my friend, just as he has indeed been in so upright and often so noble a fashion throughout his life” [letter 375 present edition]. The bond uniting them was more that of intellectual interest than of tender love or ethical fellowship, and they dissolved it in full concurrence with each other. It also seemed appropriate to include the divorce petition drafted by Caroline and signed by both parties [document 371 in present edition]. The course of events in which Schelling then took responsibility for his lady friend, continued his correspondence with Schlegel, and tied the marital knot with Caroline — who in the meantime was now in her fortieth year — in his parent’s home, namely, the prelature in Murrhardt, is presented in the second volume of Plitt’s collection, primarily on the basis of the letters to which Eduard Böcking generously granted me access from Schelling’s literary estate, letters finding their complement here in Caroline’s own.

A new life began for Caroline with her marriage to Schelling. Inwardly, it was a life of complete satisfaction and calm. She looked up to this significantly younger man with complete devotion and respect and felt removed from the struggles and battles through which she had passed. This disposition comes to expression in her extant letters from this period to her early friend Luise Gotter, who in the meantime had been widowed, to the latter’s daughters, who in their own turn, of course, were growing up, to her sister Luise Wiedemann, to Schelling’s sister, who had resided for a time in their house, to Schelling himself during a temporary absence, and to others. Externally, their life was variously in motion with the advent of new circumstances and new people, all of which Caroline is able to describe and relate with the animated mind that was uniquely her own. Her talent for narration, for vividly describing people and things and events, comes to remarkable expression here. She provides animated, moving accounts of what for her were the utterly new circumstances in the house of a Swabian pastor, of her visit in Munich, where Schelling’s new academic position was negotiated, later of the situation at the university in Würzburg, which had just been suddenly and completely transformed by new professorial appointments, and especially of the events that transpired when the country was ceded back to the earlier Grand Duke of Tuscany, who then made a grand entry into the town as electoral prince.

The final section of letters (out of six total) covers the Munich period. These letters report on Schelling’s position in the Munich Academy of Science and Humanities and as secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts, about relationships with Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Johann Wilhelm Ritter, Franz von Baader, the appointments of Friedrich Jacobs, Adolf Heinrich Schlichtegroll, and others, about visits by Wilhelm Schlegel, Ludwig Tieck, Friedrich Karl von Savigny, Bettina — let me remark in passing that Rahel Levin also makes an appearance in an earlier passage and that Friedrich Schlegel writes about her acquaintance with Schelling — Carl Friedrich von Rumohr, two characteristic letters from whom are also included, and others. Political circumstances are also repeatedly mentioned, in connection with which the enthusiastic advocate of French freedom in 1792 is at the very least not particularly cordially inclined toward Napoleonic rule. “A leaden heaviness hangs over the world now that makes it hard even to breathe freely anymore,” she writes in August 1809 [letter 443 present edition].

Caroline also engaged in literary activity during this period. Her literary estate includes the manuscripts of several reviews published at the time, one review in particular having created quite a stir, namely, of Adelbert von Chamisso and Karl August Varnhagen von Ense’s Musenalmanach auf das Jahr 1805, a review concerning whose author a great many — as we now know: completely incorrect — conjectures were made at the time. The concluding sonnet in that review [composed by Caroline] is now joined by a few others translated from Petrarch, only one of which, to be sure, can be reliably attributed to her, and two of which are extant in her handwriting but, it seems, with corrections from Schelling’s hand. Her letters reveal that she often assisted Schelling in his work by copying or taking dictation. Although authorship can thus not be reliably determined by the handwriting, I do believe one can attribute one fragment to her — to wit, one dealing with death — and I further suspect it fills out a gap in Schelling’s dialogue on the connection between nature and the spirit world, namely, Clara [the fragment “Clara oder über den Zusammenhang der Natur mit der Geisterwelt. Ein Gespräch”; Eng. Clara, or, On nature’s connection to the spirit world, trans. Fiona Steinkamp (Albany, N.Y. 2002)], which mentions a fragment to be related that was found among the papers of a recently deceased woman but was missing in the manuscript.

And it is true that during this final period Caroline thought a great deal about her own end. Although there had long been talk about a journey to Italy with Schelling, the unsettled times thwarted it. “I am genuinely worried that I may end up like Moses” [letter 441 present edition]. When a journey to Schelling’s relatives became advisable for health reasons for both Caroline and Schelling, she wrote to her brother Philipp Michaelis, “I actually would not mind if we did not return [to Munich] at all” [letter 443 present edition]. As it turned out, she took ill in her in-laws’ house and died of the same illness that had taken Auguste. This collection concludes with Schelling’s mother’s account of her death [letter 446 in present edition] and with the letters of two of Caroline’s friends, Meta Liebeskind and Luise Gotter [letters 447, 449 in present edition]. The addenda include a poem to Schelling from Karl Philipp Conz sent after Caroline’s death. Franz von Baader wrote at the time, “She was a woman of extraordinary traits and talents . . . Her husband has suffered an extraordinary loss through her death, and I fear this loss can never be replaced for him” (a passage I am including here for the first time [see the entire passage in letter 445b of the present edition]).

Because Professor Plitt, in the book already mentioned several times above, has included various documentation that might have been included here, let me make a few remarks about his edition in conclusion here [Aus Schellings Leben]:

From the very outset, my intention was for these two publications to be mutually complementary. Only the final phase of Caroline’s life coincided with that of Schelling, who would afterward be granted a long, active life along with a happy second marriage blessed with children. Although the tendency has variously been to view his earlier alliance with Caroline by comparison sooner as a shadow in the life of this highly gifted man, such a view is quite unjustified. He offered this significantly older but intellectually kindred woman his hand immediately after the divorce had been granted with Wilhelm Schlegel’s full concurrence. Although one cannot but reproach the manner in which that age viewed such separations, it is not without significance that the serious Württemberg pastorate [of Schelling’s father] took absolutely no offense at it, instead immediately dispatching their own daughter to stay with the newly married couple for a time. Just how highly Schelling’s second wife, Pauline Gotter, regarded and indeed loved Caroline can be seen both in the letters she wrote to Caroline as well as especially those she directed to Schelling after Caroline’s death, letters that, one might justifiably say, eventually won his heart.

Schelling’s own career — from his parental home in Leonberg and the monastery school in Bebenhausen to the presidency of the Academy in Munich and his final years in Berlin — is now completely accessible in the aforementioned three volumes, a rich, beautiful, happy life despite its various struggles. Both the personal and the scholarly spheres come to equal expression. Schelling’s son, Karl Friedrich August Schelling, who edited his works, had intended to compose a comprehensive biography complemented by important correspondence. His early death, however, forced the family to abandon such a plan. The single fragment that was completed was incorporated into the first volume as an introductory essay. Professor Plitt in Erlangen, who is married to one of Schelling’s granddaughters, who in her own turn provided the immediate impetus for carrying this work forward, made do with providing a brief overview of the external circumstances for each individual stage of Schelling’s life, to which he then added the letters at his disposal, most from Schelling himself and only a few from others to him. Such were not as plentiful as one might have wished, and many have been destroyed or remain inaccessible despite repeated requests. And yet the collection is not inconsiderable. From the earlier period up to the stay in Jena, Schelling’s letters to his parents occupy the most prominent position. Later the most prominent include the ones already mentioned to Wilhelm Schlegel, then others to Johann Christian von Pfister and Carl Eschenmayer. The earlier letters to Fichte already published were not reprinted [Fichtes und Schellings philosophischer Briefwechsel (1856)], and the same applies to those published in the correspondence of Sulpiz Boisserée [Sulpiz Boisserée: Lebensbeschreibung, Briefwechsel, ed. Mathilde Boisserée (Stuttgart 1862)]. By contrast, those to Gotthilf Heinrich Schubert are more complete than in his biography [Karl Schneider, Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert: ein Lebensbild (Bielefeld 1863)], followed by those to Carl Joseph Windischmann, Eberhard Friedrich Georgii, Friedrich Creuzer, Victor Cousin, Hubert Beckers, Karl Friedrich Dorfmüller, Christian Hermann Weisse, all of which deal primarily with philosophical questions, and then others to Johann Jakob Wagner, Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom, Christian August Brandis, Christian Karl Josias Bunsen, etc., that discuss broader topics, and finally those to members of his family, including his brother Karl Schelling, the highly respected physician in Stuttgart, his wife, his children, especially his son Fritz, and his son-in-law [Karl Friedrich Hermann von Eichhorn; Georg Waitz himself was also Schelling’s son-in-law]. Among the letters to Schelling, one might emphasize especially Pauline’s prior to their marriage, which have already variously attracted deserved attention, then also those from Goethe, whose close relationship with Schelling Caroline, too, repeatedly illuminates, and from whom a series of charming billets to Pauline is also included. During Schelling’s final years, his letters become less frequent, Schelling himself withdrawing increasingly to his larger projects and leaving his wife, who continued to stand by him as a loyal life companion, to take care of written communication with family and friends.

Plitt’s publication was prepared with both love and care. What distinguishes my own editorial guidelines from his is that he introduces consistent modern orthography into the letters, whereas I thought it best to maintain that of the letter writers themselves, that is, where such was consistent to begin with even though perhaps incorrect. As an aside one might remark that Caroline surpassed many of her contemporaries in this regard. I have added annotations and literary cross-references where such seemed appropriate, not least with respect to information and remarks found in other epistolary collections and biographies; Plitt adds such more in his introductory essays, I more in notes. Although neither collection includes indexes, they do include precise overviews of all the letters. Readers would, I suspect, very much like to have seen Plitt include a picture of Schelling especially from his earlier years the way my own publisher has generously included engravings of both Caroline and Auguste after their portraits by Tischbein.

Georg Waitz


[1] Caroline found refuge not with the Gotters, but in Lucka. The Gotters seem never to have learned about her pregnancy. Back.

[2] Waitz’s own footnote: This addresses some of the lingering doubts in Julian Schmidt’s essay on Wilhelm Schlegel, “Zur Erinnerung an August Wilhelm Schlegel,” Westermann’s Illustrirte Deutsche Monatshefte, vol. 29 (October–March 1871), issue 73 (October 1870), 72–90, here 76. Back.

[3] Waitz is referring to Eduard Boas, Schiller und Goethe im Xenienkampf, 2 vols. (Stuttgart, Tübingen 1851), with regard to no. 273, approximately:

To Madame B** and her Sisters.
Though now you are still a Sibyl, soon to be a Parca, I fear
All of you will ultimately end up as Furies.

Waitz also remarks that Julian Schmidt, “Zur Erinnerung an August Wilhelm Schlegel,” 80, also challenged Boas’s contention that individual Xenien were targeting Caroline. Back.

[4] “Ueber Shakespeare’s Romeo und Julia,” Die Horen (1797), vol. 10, no. 6, 18–48; a translation of this essay by Julius Charles Hare appeared in Ollier’s Literary Miscellany in Prose and Verse by several hands. To be continued occasionally, no. I (London 1820) 1–39, and is included in this present edition. Back.

[5] Johannes Müller, the “Fragmente aus den Briefen eines jungen Gelehrten an seinen Freund”, Deutsches Magazin, vols. 15 (January–June 1798) 167–76, 16 (July–December 1798) 537–88, and 17 (January–June 1799] 180–218; published subsequently as Briefe eines jungen Gelehrten an seinen Freund (Tübingen 1802). Caroline’s review appeared in Athenäum (1799) 313–16. All of Caroline’s literary reviews (as many as can be reliably attributed to her) are included in this present edition. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott