Letter 137

• 137. Caroline to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer in Berlin: Lucka, 9 December 1793

[Lucka] 9 December [17]93

|313| My dear Meyer, I hope you have been at least a little worried about how things might have gone for me.

Everything |314| went well, indeed very well — and I am full of gratitude and joy — perhaps you can tell me toward whom and about what. People are so tame that when fate deals them a dreadful hand, as soon as they have recovered they cannot help erecting some idol or other to which to present a thanksgiving offering. But I do not want to desecrate my joyous feelings through such reflections.

I am doing very well. My life is once again so dear to me. A happy, honorable mother, having once rescued her family and seen how it has grown, can feel no purer delight than did I after my child was born and I myself recovered quickly enough to anticipate being able to maintain my strength. [1]

I suffered most horribly every time before, and this time the initial signs were indeed also quite bad, and certain moments even violent, and yet they passed very quickly — and now the initial weeks have passed without even the slightest trace of the onsets I so feared. Is that not wonderful? and a show of grace from heaven, who did temper the mind! [2]

The child is wonderfully large, strong, healthy — as calm as a lamb, and, saving the best news for last — not a girl. The physician said that was my first question. As chance would have it, a physician settled here a few days beforehand who ended up serving me excellently. My second question was allegedly whether he had black eyes.

In this regard, you must realize that he does not resemble me at all, except perhaps in the mouth and chin — otherwise no one could ever switch him on me. Nor could I have asked for a better situation than that which I have arranged with his foster parents. [3] These people are genuinely fond of the boy. But I do not even know whether such news about this child of passion and the night even interests you. [4] Well, there it is anyway! —

Fine. I have also had it better here than I deserve; |315| in earlier days I never had as careful and loving care as I do now. Oh, my dear Meyer, can things but continue such that I do not hurt or trouble my immediate family — (things are still fine in that regard) — it was good that I waited until I could see how things would turn out, and when I now see the results before me — how can I regret the origin? It was precisely the consequences that originally made me despair so, and yet now they are precisely the reason I forgive myself.

Gustel is inordinately happy about the child, as if this is simply the way things are supposed to be. Those intent on establishing guilt here may not approach us, not in this small room — for here there is only innocent forgetfulness of all wrongs and all sins. [5]

Gotter has once again invited me to stay in their house — I will probably go there in January, and then we will see what is to be done next. [6]

A few days after I had seen you, a letter from Therese arrived, [7] a manifesto from the self-ruler of the Russians to the Republic of Poland. [8] She reports to me that she has doubted the existence of my heart for some 12 years now and believed me to possess merely a feeling for art — which is supposed to explain her wrongs toward me. Did you know about this? It really seems like a wholly artificial notion to me.

We have allegedly also been “rivals” since we were children. [9] What seems obvious, though, is that she considered me more her rival than I ever considered myself such, and heaven knows it never influenced either my judgment or my love. —

She has, moreover, allegedly always heard all sorts of bad things about me. That, admittedly, is really saying something. I answered her by pointing out that for a woman of intellect, I have behaved quite wretchedly my entire life, and thus, according to her understanding, am as void of intellect as heart. It is probably too late to convince her otherwise. She wants me again — but what does that mean?

I could relate more of the letter to you but will |316| not, since you would merely find occasion to be derisive, and we, both of us, might be unjust toward her, which I do not want.

I know through Minchen Bertuch that since May, Amalie has no longer been in contact with Therese, and that a letter Therese wrote her at the time “shocked” Amalie greatly, though perhaps wrongly so.

Stay well — I have written much considering the uncomfortable condition I am in just now. Please answer right away.


[1] Schmidt (1913), 1:314, was unsure of the reading of the verb here, reading the verb as Germ. wahren; the Krakau manuscript, however, clearly reads rechnen, viz. um auf [Schmidt reads doch] die Erhaltung meiner Kräte rechnen zu dürfen. Back.

[2] In English in original; unclear source. Back.

[3] The identity of this family is unknown and can only be conjectured, e.g., from the birth record. Back.

[4] Concerning Caroline’s allusion here, see Erich Schmidt’s account of the episode in his introduction to Caroline’s period in Mainz. Back.

[5] König. Grossbr. u. Churf. Braunschweig. Lünen. Genealogischer Kalender auf das 1779. Jahr; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[6] Caroline and Auguste went first from Lucka to Leipzig, then left Leipzig on or shortly after 4 February 1794 and seem to have arrived in Gotha on 8 February (see Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter from Leipzig on 4 February 1794 [letter 139]) (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[7] Therese Forster was currently in Switzerland with her daughters, Therese and Claire, and with Ludwig Ferdinand Huber; they had met with Georg Forster in Travers, Switzerland, on 3–5 November 1793. See Caroline’s letter to Meyer on 17 December 1792 (letter 119), note 5. Back.

[8] Presumably a lightly sarcastic allusion to the second partition of Poland (23 January 1793), which enabled Russia to take most of Lithuania and considerable parts of the western Ukraine, and Prussia to take, among other territories, Danzig and Great Poland, leaving Poland with barely a third of its original territories (area left to Poland marked in blue; Poland: The Partitions, in The Cambridge Modern History Atlas, ed. Adolphus William Ward, et al. [London. 1912]; Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection):


Caroline’s “manifesto” allusion may be more specifically to the treaty of alliance Russia (here: Therese Forster) forced on Poland (Caroline) giving Russian troops free entry and the right to control Poland’s relations with other powers (The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of World History, 2 vols., ed. William L. Langer [New York 1975], 1:494). Back.

[9] Here a version of “blind man’s bluff” contemporary with Caroline and Therese’s childhood (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate vi b; second illustration: Goettinger Taschen Kalender vom Jahr 1785; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




Translation © 2011 Doug Stott