Letter 116

• 116. Caroline to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer in Berlin: Mainz, 6 October 1792

Mainz, 6 October [17]92

|268| My dear Meyer, I am writing from my bed — am sick — the enemy troops are close to the town gates [1] — but since I only this moment received a letter telling me it was pathetic Bouterweck who used the mask of Baiocco Romano [2] — I have nothing more urgent than to declare officially to you that the aspersions I cast on you were unfounded. It makes me happy, indeed, feverishly happy. —

Please forgive my suspicions — and yet, it would never really have been a matter of suspicion — since in that case I would have had to consider it quite possible for you. It was solely the certainty I thought I possessed in the matter that devoured all sound reasoning concerning such possibility — I allowed myself to be completely governed by my pain and my overheated indignation.

So, Meyer, here I extend my hand to you — please do not refuse it — and put me at ease very soon. I am so glad I can once again |269| think well of you. —

Forster sends his regards — he was just here to see me. A week ago, Tatter went to Italy with the prince — he spent a couple of days with me, and I am happy. [3]

For 6 days now we have daily been expecting the French to attack — the nobility has fled, and the old man as well, albeit in a carriage from which he had had the coat of arms scratched out. [4] They genuinely are in Worms now. [5]

Here people are already wearing cocardes tricolores. [6] Our fate depends on Esterhazy, who might yet be able to stop Custine. Adieu, my dear — my tenfold more dear — justified sinner.


[1] Forces consisting of Prussians, Austrians, Hessians, and Royalist émigrés under the Duke of Braunschweig, representing the supreme command of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, had advanced into France on 19 August 1792 but retreated after their rout at the Battle of Valmy (20 September 1792) as a result of the French army’s skilled use of artillery, and by 1 October 1792 no allies remained on French soil. This situation allowed the French revolutionary army, under the command of Generals Charles-François Dumouriez and François-Christophe Kellermann, to counterattack.

In late September, the troops of General Adam Philippe de Custine had entered the Palatinate, and Custine would occupy Mainz on 21 October 1792 (see Caroline’s letter to Meyer on 16 October 1792 [letter 117], note 15). By then, as Caroline remarks later in the letter, Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal had fled the city. Back.

[2] Concerning this incident, see Caroline’s letter to Meyer on 22 September 1792 (letter 115). Back.

[3] Concerning Tatter’s journey with the prince, see Caroline’s letter to Meyer on 12 August 1792 (letter 114). — Tatter seems to have visited Caroline in Mainz ca. 20 September 1792; it was the last time she ever saw him (Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1795; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[4] Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal, Prince Elector and Archbishop of Mainz from 18 July 1774 to 4 July 1802, had fled Mainz for Würzburg on 4 October 1793.

Here an iteration of the coat-of-arms or escutcheon for the Electorate of Mainz, or Kur-Mainz (the carriage would have displayed some iteration of this “wheel of Mainz”; here from Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]) and a representative illustration of the location of such insignia on carriages (“Latest royal carriage 1989,” Die Riemer- und Sattlerkunst, trans. from the French of Garsault by Johann Samuel Halle [Berlin 1790], final plate):




[5] General Adam Philippe de Custine had taken Speyer on 30 September 1792 and Worms on 5 October. Here a contemporary illustration of his attack on Speyer (J. Ruland, Ataque de Spire du Coté du Péage Palatin, faite par un Corps d’armée de la Republique francoise aux ordres du Général Custine [1792]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):


Mainz would be next. Here the towns in the path of the French armies, including Speyer, Worms, Mainz, and Frankfurt (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; illustration: “Custine and his Hussars,” The Illustrated History of the World, for the English People, vol. 2 [London 1882], 375:):



Georg Forster, an eyewitness to these events, adds on 4 October 1792 (cited in S. Baring Gould, A Book of the Rhine [New York 1906], 333–34):

But the finest touch in this picture is still missing. Scarcely had the nobility and the upper clergy carried off their treasures, before a strict order was issued that all the rest of the inhabitants were not to imitate the example of their superiors under severe penalties. The whole was a mixture of cowardice, meanness, and despotism. Probably by an oversight, the Elector carried off with him all the money he could find in the treasury of the Orphanage. Back.

[6] After the fall of the Bastille, various symbols of the Revolution emerged. Such included Fr. cocardes tricolores, “tricolor cockades” (in different combinations of the three colors), various rosette or ribbon versions of which were worn typically on a hat, lapels, pockets, etc., here on a red Phrygian (or Jacobin) cap—the bonnet rouge, also a symbol of adherence to the revolution worn by the sans culottes and others (Royal Museums Greenwich):



Translation © 2011 Doug Stott