Letter 126

• 126. Caroline to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter in Gotha: Königstein, 12 May 1793

[Königstein] 12 May [1793]

|286| I have not heard anything from you since you sent me the copy of Dalberg’s letter [1] — my dear Gotter — It is possible |287| that something is waiting at Porsch’s, [2] which I would then be getting this evening?

I sent you a letter for Humbold[t] [3] — a second, public one — a third that was probably only a few lines. Do you have all these?

Nothing has been cleared up yet. A member of the court here interrogated us concerning the circumstances of our departure. This hearing only concerned a certain Herr Clausius [4] who has allegedly been arrested a second time — and to that extent probably also in regard to our being viewed as hostages, which only this stupid person can have prompted by his prattle. It now seems that this Clausius had orders from Simon, [5] since Simon was in camp with the king 3 weeks or 2 weeks ago with Reubel, the commissar of the National Assembly, to negotiate concerning Mainz.

They could not reach an agreement, and the French are defending themselves so successfully and courageously that the town cannot yet even be bombarded — all cannon fire is being directed to the entrenchments outside the town itself, which the two sides are tirelessly building up and destroying. [5a] Here in the castle garden I can hear the thunder of the artillery, and only a nearby mountain keeps me from seeing the entire scene itself. [5b] — Given the utter obscurity surrounding our own situation, this tedious siege — whose end would assuredly also mean our freedom — is terrible, since at this point we know as little what might free us as why we were brought here in the first place.

Our lot became easier insofar as we were consistently allowed to enjoy the fresh air in this rather desolate little garden, and the commandant had a humane, gracious disposition — but a new one is coming, and in all likelihood we will then have to forfeit every such comfort. [6] — |288| But have I not already been unfortunate enough? — Must I not now even fear that hateful rumors will turn my helpful friends from me? that they will come to doubt my character, which people raging with anger, people who have never known me personally, have been portraying according to their own purview?

Gotter, you know the truth — the story of my stay in Mainz lies open before you — that genuinely is the way it was! If the two of you, [7] you who loved me in that circle there, can doubt me — I will say this one thing in my own defense and then nothing more — if you can doubt me — then that may well be the half drop that makes the glass overflow. — —

In my short account, I related to you how urgent it is that I be rescued soon [8] — I am sure you have done what you could. I myself will try everything, and I have no intention of allowing any lack of courage or action to rob me of anything.

Does no one in Gotha know Pauli, the prince elector’s personal physician? He is very well respected. Should it not be possible to get to him? If he is in Erfurt, you could speak with him yourself. Although it does not help for me to write him in such an interrupted manner, I do wish I could find some access to him. He is Wedekind’s enemy — but how could he be mine? Would Grimm or Sulzer perhaps know him? — Stay well. — I embrace my Louise with a heavier heart than ever before.

Perhaps I will still receive something from you.

In the evening. Nothing came.


[1] Letter not extant, nor its disposition known. Concerning Caroline’s attempts to secure her release through an appeal to Karl Theodor von Dalberg, see her letters to Gotter on 19, 27, 28/29 April 1793 (letter 122, 123, 124). Back.

[2] See also note 2 to Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter on 1 May 1793 (letter 125). Back.

[3] Wilhelm von Humboldt similarly mentions these letters; see note 4 to Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter on 27 April 1793 (letter 123) and his letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 16 November 1793 (letter 136.3). Back.

[4] A Clubbist who was also arrested and taken to Frankfurt; also mentioned in Luise Michaelis’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 7 May 1793 (letter 125a). Back.

[5] Unidentified; also mentioned, with Jean-François Reubell, in Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring’s letter to Christian Gottlob Heyne on 6 April 1793 (letter 121d). Back.

[5a] Here a map of the siege clearly showing the town at center with its complex lines of angled defensive entrenchments in yellow, water entrenchments in blue, and Kastel (Cassel) across the river on the east (C. J. Humbert, Plan der Belagerung von Mainz nebst den vorhergegangenen Positionen [1793]):



[5b] Here the view from Königstein fortress out into the surrounding Taunus Mountains; although this particular view (to the north-northeast; Villa Andreae at center left) faces essentially the opposite direction from that toward Mainz (south-southwest), it demonstrates how quickly the mountainous landscape of the Taunus Mountains cuts off one’s view despite the fortress’s elevated position (1908 postcard)


And a view from the opposite direction, i.e., looking toward the west and southwest, in the direction of Mainz; the intervening mountainous area is similarly clearly visible (photograph: Franz Schilling, Königstein vom Hildatempel aus [1900]):


Here an excerpt from a painting of the southern outskirts of Mainz after the bombardment later that summer; here the complicated, angular maze of entrenchments of which Caroline here speaks is clearly visible (Georg Melchior Kraus, Ansicht von Mainz nach der Belagerung von 1793, Juli 1793, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, inventory 6021-6021Z):


Later in the summer the town itself was heavily bombarded. Back.

[6] This change of prison commandants with differing personalities plays a role in the anonymous play The Mainz Clubbists; it is also one of the details suggesting that the anonymous author of the play may have had access to Caroline’s letters. — Johann Heinrich Liebeskind also describes the initial commandant in his account of conditions in the prison. Back.

[7] I.e., Gotter and his wife, Luise. Back.

[8] Caroline was now over three months pregnant. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott