Letter 162

• 162. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Braunschweig, 10 February 1796 [*]

Braunschweig, 10 February [17]96

|380| The book-fair people came, and yet no one had brought along a Christmas stollen [1] for me. I simply could not comprehend this, since though I knew full well that my request was foolish, I also knew that my good Louise would, if need be, fulfill even such a foolish wish. Finally the driver came to strengthen my faith, which I had not yet given up — I would sooner have expected the stollen to come flying in through the window than that you would not send it at all. And as it was, it tasted wonderful!

[Requests.] I was quite delighted to find the plays in the box, and Auguste lovingly tore into both the written and baked letters, albeit into the former first, as you might expect given her otherworldly disposition. She is enclosing a note for Pauline. Her writing skills have not progressed much, since I have not yet really had an opportunity to secure lessons for her that would not have been too expensive. But I do believe it can be taken care of later. I am more concerned that her little fingers now become secure on the piano keys than that she finish learning how to scribble.

And her music is indeed coming along quite nicely; she can sing a |381| popular Italian song — one Meyer translated: sono inamorato dun bianconino [2] — so sweetly that it makes my heart flutter. The child is quite happy in general, though no new dress can delight her even half as much as can even the slightest hope of seeing her little girlfriends again, in which regard she always ranks Cäcilie first.

It is a real joy for me to hear that your husband finally went to Weimar. [3] By now he has presumably already returned. You can do me a great favor by relating to me some of the details of this trip. Göschen sent me a large package yesterday with Wieland, [4] and also wrote about the cantata [5] but did not include it. It has in the meantime already arrived here, and perhaps I myself will receive it before I seal this letter. . . .

I know little about the people whom I call my friends. I only just got around to answering Huber’s last letter from October. [6] Gradually I have become wise enough to worry only about the few people about whose love for me I am as certain as about the sun in the sky. Hence I am also not concerning myself about Meyer except that I had asked Madam Vieweg to invite him at the same time she did Madam Ebert and to seat them next to each other. That did indeed happen; after the meal, he came to her and told her he would not forget the prank, whereupon she confided to him that Madam Böhmer sent her regards and that he had her to thank for it. [6a]

Schiller’s Allmanach contains some nice things by him. What do you think: should he not have written “Amalia” over “Mathilde”? [7] I will find no rest if this coming year Gotter does not contribute something to this Allmanach — it will stand out quite nicely from the overbearing poesy, the rhymed metaphysics and morals, and the versified Humboldtian womanliness. [8] Schiller really does excessively indulge the ideal |382| — believing it suffices for him merely to utter it.

I was quite amused to see that they put the epigrams to one side, closed the gate, and, so to speak, sequestered them like little piglets in a pigsty. [9] They are lively little things, and I quite like them. But you have doubtless seen nothing yet of these splendors, poor woman, since the editor probably has not sent them to you — yet be consoled, for before the year is up they will probably yet find their way into your hands.

. . . Philipp spent some enjoyable time here and is now in Haarburg. [10] Regards to Minchen whenever you see her. Regards also to your family, and think of me often.


[*] Chronological note: Caroline’s review of Madame de Genlis had appeared back on 28 January 1796 in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. Back.

[1] Caroline uses the German term Scheitchen (Schüttchen; also Scheitichen, Scheutigen, wood cut up into small pieces for firewood) to refer to Christmas stollen; also Striezel, long plaited buns, so called because of the form of the baked goods. (Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch 14:2475, 79). Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:771, thought the term unusual enough to point out to his German-speaking readers in 1913. Back.

[2] Possibly the original behind Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer, “ABC der Liebe. Florentinisch,” Spiele des Witzes und der Phantasie (Berlin 1793), 188, here freely rendered:

Indeed am I captured, for a blond girl
With blue eyes has nigh made me expire.
Woe to me! I die! Sent to death by
An L, an O, a V, an E.

The old people say: never trust a woman,
For though their cheeks be hot, their hearts are cold as ice.
Woe to me! I die! Sent to death by
An L, an O, a V, an E.

But tell me, singer: what does that mean:
An L, an O, a V, an E?
It means that death alone will rob me of
My L, my O, my V, my E! Back.

[3] Concerning this trip, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s biographer, Rudolf Schlösser, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, 157, remarks only that Gotter “decided to make the trip to Weimar in February 1796 — a trip that seems to have been of some use to him — only after Caroline had pressed him in letters for eight months to do so” (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Caroline also mentions the trip in letters to Luise Gotter on 28 June and 13 October 1795 (letters 151, 158). Back.

[4] Volumes of the extensive and lavishly produced edition Göschen published of Christoph Martin Wieland’s works: C. M. Wielands sämmtliche Werke, ultimately 45 vols. (Leipzig: Georg Joachim Göschen, 1794–1802). Here the frontispieces to a sampling of the volumes Caroline and Wilhelm would have received in in 1795, viz. volumes published during 1794 and 1795; in order vol. 9, vols. 1 and 5; vols. 7 and 11; vols. 12 and 13:






[5] Unidentified. Back.

[6] The letter from Ludwig Ferdinand Huber seems to have been lost. Back.

[6a] A tricky statement to annotate. Johann Friedrich Vieweg had married the native Braunschweig resident Charlotte, née Campe, daughter of Joachim Heinrich Campe, on 27 October 1795 (Caroline mentions seeing the new “bridegroom”). Vieweg, however, did not move his publishing business to Braunschweig until 1799. It is difficult to understand how the Vieweg newlyweds could have remained in Braunschweig after the wedding in October as late as Caroline is here writing, namely, till February 1796, especially given the nature of Vieweg’s publishing responsibilities in Berlin.

Hence the most likely scenario is that Madam Ebert made a journey to Berlin, where she either stayed with or otherwise socialized with the newlyweds and was, as Caroline suggested, seated next to Meyer, who at the time was working in Berlin.

That said, Meyer, who co-edited the Berlinisches Archiv der Zeit und ihres Geschmacks from 1795 to 1797, had an elder brother who had died in 1795 whose money Meyer himself would inherit, which gave him the means to leave Berlin. Perhaps he made a journey through Braunschweig — his biographer attests his subsequent close friendship with the Viewegs and Campes — as part of his plans to move, in 1797, to the area north of Hamburg. It is difficult to imagine, however, that Caroline would not have mentioned his presence in Braunschweig. Back.

[7] Schiller’s Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1796 (Neustrelitz 1796), which was late and did not appear until January, contained a (according to Erich Schmidt [1913], 1:711) long, weak monologue by Meyer of an unhappy but faithful wife, “Mathilde” (180–82); Caroline’s slyly unkind allusion is to Amalie Reichard in Gotha in her marriage — into which she entered not entirely on her own choice (see her biogram) — to H. A. O. Reichard (approximate prose translation):


 What stirs so subtly now in my heart?
What makes me blush, then pale?
What torments my soul with pains so deep,
And never gives me peace?
  'Tis love that brings these tears?
  Love's demands that fill my breast?
  Secret longing that now dreams
  Of unfulfilled request?

Alas! my own signs bear not
Such wishes high and proud!
To renounce did I quite early learn,
And to follow my duty, whither it turn.
  Since uttering that fateful vow
  That at the altar did me bind,
  I saw my happiness flee far away,
  While my faithfulness did abide

To him to whom my word I gave,
Whose property I am,
To him do I my life since bring,
And myself as sacrificial lamb.
  Maternal blessing did him consecrate
  As my spouse that day,
  And thus I went, devoutly, to him,
  Forever his to be.

Is it to fate itself that he does owe
This right to have things thus?
While I am now dead to all the world
His happiness to ensure?
  Does anywhere my presence dispel
  Sorrow, heartache from his life?
  And does he easily find his slumber deep
  In my embrace at night?

That stirs so subtly now in my heart,
And makes me blush, then pale.
That torments my soul with pains so deep,
And never gives me peace.
  'Tis doubt that causes all these tears,
  And makes my breast so tight;
  Such yearning now one can excuse
  For my innocence's desire.

I did once so firmly believe
That in heaven dwells a God
Who hears a person's quiet lament;
But to most 'tis a mockery sure.
  Those who are my brethren not,
  Perhaps they may such consolation rend;
  I, however, shall pray, assured:
  May God bless husband and child!

Meyer contributed five pieces to this issue (for listing see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in the autumn of 1795 [letter 155] with note 7 or the project bibliography). Back.

[8] The Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1796, 186, includes Schiller’s poem “Würde der Frauen,” which Wilhelm von Humboldt praised as a “divine piece” but which Friedrich and Wilhelm Schlegel ridiculed as something utterly hostile to emancipation (for the text of Schiller’s poem, see supplementary appendix 162.1). Humboldt writes to Schiller on 11 September 1795 (Der Briefwechsel zwischen Schiller und Wilhelm v. Humboldt [Stuttgart, Tübingen 1830] 194; Der Briefwechsel zwischen Friedrich Schiller und Wilhelm von Humboldt, ed. Siegfried Seidel [Berlin 1962], 140):

Your “Würde der Frauen” made a wonderful impression on both of us [Humboldt and his wife, Caroline]. For me it was indeed an indescribable feeling to find expressed in such beautiful and appropriate diction things about which I have so often reflected and which are more intimately connected with me and with my entire being than you perhaps may be aware. But what one thinks and writes so prosaically is nothing more than a prattling back and forth, something merely dead and powerless, and certainly indefinite and unfinished. It is only in the mouth of the poet that it acquires completion, life, and its own organization, something I have long not felt the way I feel it here. The portrayal of both characters is as successful as is their juxtaposition; the meter was a splendid choice, and one will find very few poems indeed that will be so sure of hitting their mark.

Similarly, Die Horen (1795) (rather than the Musenalmanach itself) contained two essays by Wilhelm von Humboldt: one on sex differences and their influence on organic nature (“Über den Geschlechtsunterschied und dessen Einfluß auf die organische Natur,” vol. 1, issue 2, 99–132) and one on masculine and feminine form (“Über männliche und weibliche Form,” vol. 1, issue 3, 80–103; vol. 2, issue 4, 14–40). Back.

[9] Goethe’s anonymous “Epigramme. Venedig 1790” constitute the conclusion to Schiller’s Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1796, 205–60, as do the Xenien the conclusion to the Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1797, 197–302. Goethe composed the 130 “Venetian epigrams” largely during his stay in Venice (March–May 1790) and Silesia (autumn 1790); several address his relationship with Christiane Vulpius, others exhibit a slightly critical or irritated assessment of Italy and human affairs generally, whence perhaps Caroline’s wry metaphor. Back.

[10] Philipp Michaelis established himself as a respected physician in Harburg near Hamburg, where Caroline visited him in 1801 (A New Map of the Circle of Upper Saxony; with the Duchy of Silesia and Lusatia, from the Latest Authorities [1801], from John Cary, Cary’s New Universal Atlas, containing distinct maps of all the principal states and kingdoms throughout the World. From the latest and best authorities extant [London 1808]; Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; illustration: Harburg ca. 1825 [Haldenwang after A.Radl]):





Translation © 2011 Doug Stott