Letter 133

• 133. Caroline to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer in Berlin: Lucka, 15 August 1793

[Lucka] 15 August 1793

|306| When I received your letter the day before yesterday, I could not but be glad I had made my decision and already implemented it a week ago. [1] I, too, realized that because G[öschen] knew so much, and because he and his wife were in a position to guess so much, it would be much safer for me to confide in them. [2] They have been so active on my behalf and have accepted me so warmly that I would be severely mistaken were it not they whom I should have to thank first and last. G[öschen] himself seems as upright as he is eager to help, and she is surely a good woman whose discretion derives from simple kindness. [3]

Through his mediation, I am now living in a small country village, as quiet as a cemetery, three [German] miles [4] from Leipzig in the Altenburg area, in the house of an elderly, unmarried, sickly physician who is allegedly quite skilled in the specialty in which I require his assistance |307| and who on several occasions has already accommodated sick persons in his house. [5] Göschen did not know the man previously — he introduced me as his stepsister who wanted to reconcile relatives and whose husband was not yet in a position to make a declaration of marriage etc.

I let him spin out the story. Your suggestions are so excellent that the Marchese von G[rosse] would rejoice in them, and so reasonable that I would have followed them had it not been too late and if in the larger sense I knew better how to lie convincingly except in a fit of sheer willfulness. [6] I said nothing except that it would have to remain a secret now because otherwise it would mean falling out with my family, upsetting them, and because the disposition in which the world views my imprisonment will not even accept truth itself, and because I would lose a pension that I could not yet give up. [7]

And this is all quite true. The Göschens themselves perhaps suspect a certain person, [8] and perhaps also suspect a secret or at least future marriage — though wholly without my encouraging them to do so.

My child will be provided for should I not be able to do so. The father is alive and is asking for it, though if it is at all in my power, it will remain mine. I never believed that Auguste would be the poorer because of what it might take from her — my conviction was merely that the shame, indeed, the scandal that would invariably have accompanied any discovery of my condition at the time would necessarily be disadvantageous to the destiny of this eight-year-old girl and would ineradicably, bitterly hurt all those who, near and far, were sympathetic to me. That is why I was indeed able to contemplate the idea that even I myself viewed as being as abominable as it was necessary within the walls that surrounded me. [9]

I fully realize just how little you know me if you think it necessary to reproach me with your rather harsh remark for engaging in the sort of rapturous fanaticism |308| that, were I indeed even capable of such, would make me despise both my own intellect and my own heart. I am aware of my duties, and I hope I am addressing them now in their entire breadth by aiming to make good that which I violated, and by losing neither courage nor patience nor cordiality in the process. —

Since I am more vulnerable now than is usually the case, you are certainly in a position to wound me, and yet you also could have helped me; but my disposition will remain the same even if you change your tone toward me. I would have to be blind rather than suspicious not to notice that change. The only possible cause I can suspect — is that the chancery secretary Br. [10] answered you and reprimanded you concerning a woman with whom he has become quite sufficiently acquainted through vulgar rumors. You became suspicious because you know the way of the world. Words, letters are nothing. That is my belief as well. We have not seen each other for 4 or 5 years now, and how might I have changed since then?

One thing is certain, namely, that from now on we will necessarily misunderstand each other until chance brings us together again. I recently thought I might yet see you within the next 3 months, but you now announce that you anticipate a rather lengthy stay in Berlin. What may happen after that is doubtful at the very least. [11]

My brother [12] writes that he has sent Voss a letter to me in an envelope to you. It should already have arrived — can you not inquire with Voss? If you do send it to me, please address an envelope to G[öschen], since his people think I am in B[erlin] and would thus be puzzled by a letter from there. My friends in Gotha think I am out in the country near B. So much for such news, just so you do not inadvertently cause problems for me.


[1] That is, Caroline seems to have arrived in Lucka on 7 August 1793, a small village located just over 25 km south of Leipzig in the jurisdiction of Altenburg (Johann Baptist Homann, Tabula geographica in qua…principatus Gotha, Coburg et Altenburg cum omnibus eorundem praefecturis tam in Thuringia quam Misnia et Franconia sitis ostenduntur [1724]):



[2] Caroline was now approximately six and a half months pregnant. Back.

[3] Erich Schmidt (1913), 306, was uncertain about the reading Germ. wirkendes (“ein gutes, aus Güte wirkendes Weib”), indicating such by the insertion of a question mark in brackets (Waitz [1871], 1:132, severely abridges the letter and does not include this passage). The word in the Krakau manuscript, however, seems fairly clearly to be “diskrettes” (discreet), which also fits the context. Back.

[4] Ca. 25 km. Back.

[5] Carl Friedrich Jacob Dietrich, who owned the ensemble of half-timber houses and garden complex where Caroline was living (half-timber according to Brigitte Rossbeck, Zum Trotz glücklich: Caroline Schlegel-Schelling und die romantische Lebenskunst [Munich 2008], 305fn2), died shortly before she gave birth. His successor, Johann Heinrich Königsdörffer, mentioned in the birth record of Caroline’s son, attended at the birth.

Caroline and Auguste lived upstairs in the house, which was part of the complex of several houses constituting an ensemble and was located on a short, narrow side alley toward the edge of town — Hirtengasse — that forks off sharply from Altenberger Strasse and then runs almost parallel for a short distance, but with houses only on one side, that is, across the alley from the backs of the houses on Altenburger Strasse; the small alley itself is not indicated on the following map from 1880 (Topographische Karte Sachsen [1880]; Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden [SLUB], Inv.-Nr. SLUB KS 14891, Blatt 57; Deutsche Fotothek df dk 0000278, obj 70302464):


Here the property in 2014. The first house on this side alley today — at far left past the trees — bears the address Hirtengasse 6, hence Hirtengasse 2 is located on the vacant properties to the right; the house (two roofs) at center was built only since 1989 (photo and cordial communication: Manuel Woyda, Hohendorf):


Although the following illustration from 1808 does not depict the house in which Caroline lived or even a house in Lucka, it does portray a representative half-timber house of the period in a setting almost identical to that in the photograph above. Caroline and Auguste lived upstairs in a house of this type (Christoph Nathe, Weg mit Mauer und Fachwerkhaus [1808]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur CNathe AB 3.10):


As one later learns (see Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 4–5 November 1793 [letter 136.1]), the house was part of an ensemble of several structures that included a courtyard, much like the following typical ThuringianFranconian farmstead ensemble (“Thüringisch-fränkischer Bauernhof,” Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4 ed. [Leipzig, Vienna 1885–92], vol. 2, s.v. Bauernhaus, p. 0470a, fig. 8):


See Caroline’s letter to Meyer on 9 December 1793 (letter 137): “As chance would have it, a physician settled here a few days beforehand who ended up serving me excellently.” Friedrich Schlegel similarly remarks in a letter to Wilhelm on 28 August 1793 (letter 134) that although the initial, elder physician was “sickly, miserly, [and] cranky,” “should he himself become too ill, or perhaps even die, another is nearby whom one can call.”

Dietrich’s sister and heir, Johann Sophie Wilhelmina Wismar, assisted by her sister-in-law, Christine Elisabeth Kornschreiber, seems to have managed the household after his death, eventually also becoming Königsdörffer’s mother-in-law. Königsdörffer purchased the complex from Frau Wismar in March 1794, just after Caroline’s departure. See esp. Brigitte Rossbeck, Zum Trotz glücklich: Caroline Schlegel-Schelling und die romantische Lebenskunst (Munich 2008), 107–8, 305n3, n4. Back.

[6] That is, the fanciful nature of the fabrication of Caroline’s story would have been worthy of inclusion in the types of stories authored by Karl Friedrich August Grosse, who called himself, among other things, the Marquis of Parnusa. Concerning Grosse’s novels, see Caroline’s letter to Meyer on 12 August 1792 (letter 114), note 16; supplementary appendix 114.1 (concerning his portrayal of the Michaelis family itself); and the extensive sections on Grosse in Luise Wiedemann’s Erinnerungen, in her autobiographical section, p. 86f. et passim. Back.

[7] Her widow’s pension. Back.

[8] See Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm on 3 August 1793 (letter 132a) and Wilhelm’s letter to Göschen on 13 January 1794 (letter 137c). Back.

[9] That is, the idea of suicide; see Caroline’s letter to Meyer on 30 July 1793 (letter 132). Back.

[10] Unidentified. Back.

[11] As it turned out, Meyer would visit Caroline in Lucka for a few hours between 16 and ca. 22 October 1793 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[12] Presumably Philipp Michaelis rather than Christian Friedrich Michaelis. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott