Letter 124

• 124. Caroline to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter in Gotha: Königstein, 28, 29 April 1793

Königstein, 28 [and 29] April [17]93

|284| How active your friendship has been, my dear Gotter — and how restorative all the demonstrations of that friendship have been for me! You give me new life amid my monotonous sojourn here and inspire me to work on my own behalf, inspiration that on many days I simply no longer have.

Herr Coadjutant Dalberg could probably not yet get more deeply involved in the matter. Herr Hofrath von Mörs, [1] who was commissioned with conducting preliminary hearings for all the prisoners here, disclosed to us what we had already learned through various earlier queries made by a friend, namely, that they intend to view us as hostages, as you will see in more detail from the enclosed essay. [2]

This demonstrates, of course, the meager degree to which they consider us genuinely culpable — it would, however, nonetheless cut off all my chances of securing help should they persist in this position. Hence I completely refused his suggestion to initiate the requisite steps in that regard. —

If Herr von Humbold[t], [3] to whom a report concerning our arrest has been sent from here, should not be in Erfurt at the present time, being perhaps instead on one his estates near Berlin and thus not in a position to communicate immediately to the coadjutant the information necessary to help us, then I would urgently entreat you to use my written explanation here in dealing with the coadjutant, even if it means dealing with him personally — he will be all the less inclined to refuse Gotter — please expound further on that to which I have merely alluded and on which you are surely capable of expounding. If, however, Herr von Humbold[t] was immediately able to receive that report after all, |285| then you are spared this particular labor on my behalf, and in that case please send the enclosure on to my mother.

I do not yet want to risk appealing myself to His Grace the Prince Elector, as you advise — you can sense the prejudices that must first be eliminated before I can expect to receive a favorable hearing there — in that case, however, even if I could not appeal to the just nature of my cause in the larger sense, I would nonetheless expect everything from his magnanimity.

My sisterly loss is in fact double. [4] Madam Nieper is also dead — my father-in-law’s favorite child — will this father, who is otherwise so happy, ultimately have to see everything sink into the dust before his very eyes even before he himself leaves this earth? I cannot really describe for you my own state of mind amid all these concerns for others and my own suffering. [5]

I am never lacking for courage. — My health is suffering a great deal from lack of exercise. — Please give my regards to Mother Schläger — I embrace Wilhelmine and Louise — my dear Louise. Today is Auguste’s birthday — surely things will be better this time next year. [6]

C. B.

29 April

Another thing keeping me from presenting my case directly to the prince elector is the impossibility of avoiding having to present all the details as well. Anyone can assert his innocence; what is required is that supporting evidence be adduced, and that in its own turn requires that details of minute circumstances be addressed, especially in a case such as mine. And circumstances are often quite different when viewed up close than they may appear from afar. —

|286| Please pardon the poor quality of the paper — there is nothing better here in the prison.

Have you heard nothing from Meyer in Berlin?

Notes

[1] Otherwise unidentified adminstrative official (also “Moers”) who also writes to Philipp Michaelis from Kronberg in July concerning Caroline’s release; see notes to Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter from Frankfurt on 13 July 1793 (letter 131). Back.

[2] Although initially certain prisoners in Königstein were to be held as surety against the citizens of Mainz who had been taken to Strasbourg as hostages, later Caroline learns she herself was being held in the hope of an exchange of her freedom for Georg Forster, who had in the meantime gone to Paris. Back.

[3] See Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter on 27 April 1793 (letter 123). Back.

[4] Lotte Michaelis had died in connection with childbirth on 2 April 1793. Concerning the circumstances and the resulting scandal, see the Georg Tatter’s letter to Luise Michaelis on 27 April 1793 (letter 123a), note 1.

Charlotte Nieper, née Böhmer, Caroline’s sister-in-law, had died the day after Caroline fled Mainz, 31 March 1793 (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Höltys Elegie auf ein Landmädchen (1794); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.985):

Rural_funeral_1

Back.

[5] Frontispiece to Auguste Lafontaine, Dramatische Werke (Görlitz 1805):

Woman_prison_table

Back.

[6] Auguste turned eight years old on 28 April 1793. A year later, in April 1794, she and Caroline would be living with the Gotters in Gotha, though Caroline still had not yet been able to decide on a permanent place of residence for them. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott